Hope - Chapter 99 from Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works
by Hieromonk Damascene
The 'gates of hell' will not prevail
against the Church, but they have and certainly can prevail against many who
consider themselves pillars of the Church, as is shown by Church history.
Orthodoxy," wrote Archbishop
Averky, "is not merely some type of purely earthly organization which is headed
by patriarchs, bishops, and priests who hold the ministry in the Church which
is officially called 'Orthodox.' Orthodoxy is the mystical 'Body of Christ,'
the head of which is Christ Himself....
"The Church, it is true, may not be removed completely from
the world, for people enter her who are still living on the earth, and
therefore the 'earthly' element in her composition and external organization is
unavoidable; yet the less of this 'earthly' element there is, the better it
will be for her eternal goals. In any case, this 'earthly' element should not
obscure or suppress the purely spiritual elementthe matter of the salvation of
the soul unto eternal lifefor the sake of which the Church was both founded
words were very much along the lines of Fr. Seraphim's thinking. Although Fr.
Seraphim was a devoted member of the Orthodox Church, he knew he could place no
ultimate hope in any church organization. That is why, in the letter to an
Orthodox priest quoted earlier, he wrote: "Orthodox shepherds today more than
ever must beware of placing their hope in the 'organization,' but rather must
be constantly looking upward to the Chief Shepherd Christ."3
In another letter, having described the small Orthodox
community in Etna, Fr. Seraphim stated: "We ourselves have a feelingbased on
nothing very definite as yetthat the best hope for preserving true Orthodoxy
in the years ahead will lie in such small gatherings of believers, as much as
possible 'one in mind and soul.' The history of the twentieth century has
already shown us that we cannot expect too much from the 'Church organization';
there, even apart from heresies, the spirit of the world has become very
strong. Archbishop Averky*, and our own Bishop Nektary also, have warned us to
prepare for catacomb times ahead, when the grace of God may even be taken away
from the 'Church organization' and only isolated groups of believers will
remain. Soviet Russia already gives us an example of what we may expectonly
worse, for the times do not get better."4
Nevertheless, the fact that Fr. Seraphim did not place
final hope in church organizations did not mean that he at any time ceased to
believe in the invincibility of the Orthodox Churchthe mystical Body of
Christ against which the gates of hell shall not prevail (Matt. 16:18).
In Orthodox dogmatic theology, the Church has been defined
not as an organization but as a theandric (God-human) organism. Christ
is the Head of the Church, the Holy Spirit gives life to the Church, and the
believersboth those still on earth in the "Church militant" and those already
in Heaven in the "Church triumphant"are included in the Church's Body. Thus,
the twentieth-century Serbian theologian Fr. Justin Popovich wrote that "the Church
is ... a God-human organism and not a human organization."5 Likewise,
Fr. Michael Pomazansky stated: "The life of the Church in its essence is mystical;
the course of its life cannot be entirely included in any 'history.' The Church
is completely distinct from any kind whatever of organized society on earth....
As all the members of our body comprise a full and living organism which
depends upon its head, so also the Church is a spiritual organism in which
there is no place that the powers of Christ do not act."6
In viewing the
Church as a God-human organism headed by Christ, Fr. Seraphim was able to look
above and beyond the errors and sins of the Church's human members. Following
the Scriptural injunction to trust not in princes, nor in the sons of men
(Psalm 145:2), he instead put trust in Christ Who welcomes sinful men and women
into His Body and offers to save them from sin. In a passage from Orthodox
Dogmatic Theology which Fr. Seraphim translated into English, Fr. Michael
Pomazansky wrote: "The sanctity of the Church is not darkened by the intrusion
of the world into the Church, or by the sinfulness of men. Everything sinful
and worldly which intrudes into the Church's sphere remains foreign to it and
is destined to be sifted out and destroyed, like weed seeds at sowing time. The
opinion that the Church consists only of righteous and holy people without sin
does not agree with the direct teaching of Christ and His Apostles. The Saviour
compares His Church with a field in which the wheat grows together with the
tares, and again, with a net which draws out of the water both good fish and
bad. In the Church there are both good servants and bad ones (Matt. 18:23–35),
wise virgins and foolish (Matt. 25:1–13)."7
In a letter of 1972, Fr. Seraphim expressed his faith in
the organism of the Churcha faith which prevented him from getting upset even
when he beheld others in the Church who treated it like a political
organization. To an American convert who was angry when he saw church leaders
acting like petty organizational men, Fr. Seraphim counseled:
"On the whole, our bishops are not known as poor
administrators.... If anything, their great temptation lies in taking the
'organization' side of the Church too seriously and thereby sometimes
'quenching the spirit' of some members of the Church's organism. Those of us
who can must simply try to keep this spirit aliveas you have written,
precisely: 'to turn from trusting in the "organization" and cleave to the
"organism."' Thereby we not only can be of service to the Church, but we become
the bishops' best helpersfor we are working together with them in the true
service of the Church's 'organism,' the Body of Christ. If we thereby sometimes
suffer misunderstandings and offenses from each other (and we are all guilty of
this, not just bishops!), the Church gives us the spiritual means to forgive
and overcome these.
"In particular, we are sad to see you so angry at Fr. G ...
and we refuse to entertain any hard feelings about him. If he has placed
himself in mistaken positions, it was doubtless from sincere motives, which
were nonetheless potentially harmful because they were political, i.e.,
directed toward the 'organizational' side of the Church at the expense of the
organism. Frankly, Vladika John during his lifetime was not understood even by
many of his fellow bishops, precisely because he was always first and foremost
living in the organism of the Church and never let the organization take
precedence. That is his testament to us all, and don't worry if you
think you don't understand it right now; it can't really be 'understood,' but
only experienced and suffered through as you grow in the Church and her
tradition. God will send you occasions for 'understanding' it in your heart.
"Do not trust your mind too much; thinking must be refined
by suffering, or it will not stand the test of these cruel times. I do not
believe that the 'logical' ones will be with Christ and His Church in the days
coming upon us; there will be too many 'reasons' against it, and those who
trust their own minds will talk themselves out of it."8
In a letter of 1975, addressing the problems created in the
Church by the super-correct faction, Fr. Seraphim again expressed his hope in
the Church which transcends human errors and passions: "Deep down we are
peaceful about all this, for we know the Church is stronger than any of those
who have been deceived into thinking they are the Church, and they
always fall away, making those who remain in the Church more sober thereby."9
During a lecture at the 1979 St. Herman Pilgrimage, Fr.
Seraphim spoke about how God is leading the Church:
"The more you 'get your own wings' in Orthodoxy, by reading
more, being exposed to more, having more contact with Orthodox people,
receiving the grace of God more, the more you begin to be able to 'feel your
way' in the whole realm of Orthodoxy. You begin to see that there are many wise
things which in the beginning you might have thought were not so wise. Even if
the people involved in these things are not wise themselves, nevertheless God
is guiding the Church. We know that He is with the Church until the end, and
therefore there is no reason to go off the deep end, to fall into apostasy and
In 1981, when writing an article about Fr. Michael
Pomazansky, Fr. Seraphim affirmed what both Fr. Michael and Archbishop John had
taught him about how the Church is preserved from extremes both on the right
and on the left:
"Fortunately, the genuine Orthodox tradition has a waywith
the help of God, Who looks after His Churchof preserving itself from the
extremes that often try to deflect it from its course. This self-preservation
and self-continuity of the Orthodox tradition is not something that requires
the assistance of 'brilliant theologians'; is is the result of the
uninterrupted 'catholic consciousness' of the Church which has guided the
Church from the very beginning of its existence. It is this catholic
consciousness which preserved the wholeness of Russian Orthodoxy in the 1920s
when the extreme reforms of the 'Living Church' seemed to have taken possession
of the Church and many of its leading hierarchs and theologians**; this same
catholic consciousness is at work today and will continue to preserve Christ's
Church though all the trials of the present day, just as it has for nearly 2000
Finally, at the 1982 Pilgrimage, Fr. Seraphim ended what
turned out to be the last talk of his life by expressing his hope that his
listenersmost of them converts to Orthodoxywould be true members of Christ's
Body, the Orthodox Church. Countering what he called "the worldly opinion ...
that the Church is only a set of buildings or a worldly organization," Fr.
Seraphim said we are called "to a deeper awareness of Christ's Church and of
how our 'formal membership' in it is not enough to save us."11 He
quoted the words of the modern-day Romanian confessor Fr. George Calciu about
what it means to be in the Church:
"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 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
"With such a call in our hearts," Fr. Seraphim concluded,
"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'
or even 'Orthodox.'... If we truly live the Orthodox worldview, 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."12
trusted in the power of Christ to heal His Church, Fr. Seraphim cherished hopes
for the future healing of the wounds of the Orthodox Church in Russia. He found
this hope especially well expressed in the writings of his most beloved Russian
New Martyr, Bishop Damascene Tsedrick of Starodub (+1935),
which he translated for the book Russia's Catacomb
Being caught in the early years of the anti-Christian
Soviet experiment, Bishop Damascene was a sign in advance for Orthodox
Christians who will one day be caught in the reign of Antichrist. He stood up
against Metropolitan Sergius' capitulation to the Soviet regime, and for this
reason he was arrested and sent into exile. Seeing the Sergian deviation as
only a wound in the Body of Christ which would one day be healed, the exiled
bishop sent beautiful epistles to console and strengthen his persecuted flock.
In one of them he wrote:
"Those children of God who have not fallen under the
pressure of the satanic hurricane and have not been bruised by the pieces of
the great shipwreck, are clearly aware of the situation and with complete
calmness and confidence will undertake the building of the true Church of
Christ on the foundation of it which still remains, without excessive
nervousness, without unnecessary complaints; for the process of its building
will comprise the whole meaning of their life....
"Let it be that darkness has temporarily covered the earth
(from the sixth to the ninth hour), let it be that the lamps of certain
Churches are hidden under bushels so as not to be put out by the satanic
whirlwind.... After a short time of rest from the Lord (perhaps even the time
when the darkness will imagine that its work has already been completed), the
lamps will be revealed, will come together, will ignite a multitude of others
which had been put out, will pour together into a great flame of faith which,
when efforts are made to put it out, will burn yet brighter....
"Does one need to step back before the attack of militant
atheism? May this not be! No matter how few we might be, the whole power of
Christ's promises concerning the invincibility of the Church remain with us.
With us is Christ, the Conqueror of death and hell. The history of Christianity
shows us that, in all the periods when temptations and heresies have agitated
the Church, the bearers of Church Truth and the expressors of it were few, but
these few with the fire of their faith and their zealous standing in the Truth
have gradually ignited everyone.... The same thing will happen now if we few will
fulfill our duty before Christ and His Church to the end.
"The fearless confession of faith and of one's hope and a
firm standing in the Church's laws are the most convincing refutation of the
Sergian deviation and are an unconquerable obstacle to the hostile powers
directed against the Church. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's
good pleasure to give you the Kingdom (Luke 12:32)."13
Time has proved that Bishop Damascene's position was the
true one and that his hope was not in vainfor the Orthodox Church, as the Body
of Christ, is indeed a living organism from which Christ expels all that is
In 1988, the thousandth anniversary of the Baptism of Rus,
the fervent prayers of believers both in Russia and abroad were answered by
God, and the situation in Russia began to change. In 1991, within months after
the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov were revealed and carried in procession to
Diveyevo Monastery, the totalitarian atheist regime fell, thus changing the
situation that produced the spiritual disease of Sergianism. In the decade that
followed, through the heavenly intercessions of St. Seraphim and the host of
Russian Saints, Russia has experienced what has been called the largest
religious revival in history.
In Russia's Catacomb Saints, Fr. Seraphim predicted
that when the godless regime in Russia falls, "the Sergianist church
organization and its whole philosophy of being will crumble to dust."14
This is indeed happening at the present time in Russian history. For those who
view the Church as an invincible theandric organism as did Bishop
Damascene and Fr. Seraphim, it is clear that Sergianism as an organization and
a "whole philosophy of being" is indeed being replaced by something else, as
the Church organism is healed and corrected by Christ with the cooperation of
its members. Clear proof of this is found in the fact that, in the year 2000,
the Sobor of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, responding to the fervent
desire of the people who comprise the Body of Christ, canonized 1,200 New
Martyrs and Confessors, including numerous bishop-martyrs who protested against
Metropolitan Sergius' bowing down to the anti-Christian authorities. Among the
newly canonized hierarchs was none other than Bishop Damascene. During his
lifetime, Metropolitan Sergius' policy of capitulation appeared victorious, but
in the end it was not him but the suffering, outcast Bishop Damascene who was
proclaimed a saint by the Orthodox Church.
This consideration provides a valuable lesson in what the
Orthodox Church of Christ actually is, and how "the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it" even if, for a time, some church leaders succumb to
temptation and pressure from the world.
With his hope
in the future healing of the Russian Church, Fr. Seraphim hoped in the future
restoration of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad to liturgical communion with
the main body of the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia, the Moscow
Patriarchate. In this he was of one mind with the best tradition of the Russian
Church Abroad; as will be remembered, it had been Archbishop John who had first
instilled such hope in him. In 1960, referring to the Russian Church inside
Russia as the "suffering Mother" of the Church Abroad, Archbishop John had
written: "The Russian Church Outside of Russia spiritually is not separated
from her suffering Mother. She offers up prayers for her, preserves her
spiritual and material wealth, and in due time she will unite with her, when
the reasons for their disunity shall have vanished."15
Together with Archbishop John, Fr. Seraphim understood that
the division between the two Russian Churches, though real, was only on an
organizational level, and did not touch the deeper unity which existed in the
Church organism. Thus, when outward circumstances changed in Russia, this unity
should be affirmed outwardly. Writing as a member of the Church Abroad, Fr.
Seraphim stated in a letter: "Our Church has no communion with Moscow. But our
Church recognizes this as a temporary situation, which will end when the
Communist regime comes to an end."16 Elsewhere, writing about Fr.
Dimitry Dudko, who belonged to the Moscow Patriarchate, Fr. Seraphim affirmed
that "Once the political situation in Russia that produced 'Sergianism' will
have changed, a full unity in the faith will be possible with such courageous
strugglers as Fr. Dimitry."17
With the changes in Russia, culminating in the canonization
of the New Martyrs and Confessors in Moscow, the path is now open for Fr.
Seraphim's hope to be realized. If liturgical communion is restored between the
two Russian Churches, they will be following the example already set by the two
Serbian Orthodox Churches which have entered into communion again after decades
of separation during the Communist era.
divisions prevail in the Church, this is due to lack of faith in the Church and
in Christ's power to heal its members. An understanding of the Church as a
God-human organism helps us to be more patient when we notice human error in
the Church, and less desirous of seeing divisions persist. We will be more
accepting of God's Providence, which, as He Himself has told us, allows tares
to grow alongside the wheat until the Last Judgment. In times of tribulation we
will be able to remain steadfast and faithful to the traditions and teachings
of the Church, without ourselves contributing to any schism or ill-will among
members of the Church.
For Fr. Seraphim, this understanding of the Church as a
living organism grew and deepened over time. With this deepening, Fr. Seraphim
was at the same time able to rise above jurisdictional divisions in the Church,
which were after all on an organizational level. By the end of his life, he
distanced himself considerably from the isolationism that many wished to see
prevail in his own Russian Church Abroad. Fr. Alexey Young describes well the
change that occurred in Fr. Seraphim over the years:
"Fr. Seraphim was a very strict isolationist about other
jurisdictions in the first several years (roughly 1966–75) I had contact with
"I believe that at this time his own experience of other
Orthodox groups was somewhat limited and academic, and so his strict views were
formed on an almost purely ideological basis. This changed rather abruptly,
however, as he began to see 1) the effects of isolationism on the Synod Abroad,
and 2) the increasingly shrill fanaticism of the [super-correct] 'party' in the
Synod. He was at first uncomfortable, and then openly appalled at the utter
lack of charity on the part of the so-called 'zealots.' He was himself a
'zealot,' but not to the exclusion of charity. Near the end of his life he once
said to me: 'I regret many of the "pro-zealot" articles we published in The
Orthodox Word in the earlier years: we helped to create a monster, and for
that I repent!' He was quite emphatic about that....
"In the last year or two of his life Fr. Seraphim often
told me that he had begun to commune lay men and women from other jurisdictions
that came to him. He said: 'I know this would be frowned upon, but these people
come and they are hungry for spiritual guidance and nourishment and ... what can
we do? Turn them away?' When I asked if he wasn't afraid of being 'denounced'
by the ultra-zealots in the Synod he replied: 'You don't know me very well if
you think I'd be worried about that. Whether I get in trouble or not, I KNOW
that this is the right thing to do!'
"In general on this subject, my sense is that Fr. Seraphim,
while respecting outward rules and regulations, always tried to penetrate to
the inward 'spirit.' From the early 1970s on (as I recollect it) he saw more
and more clearly that we must rise above jurisdictional differencesnot in
order to become innovators and betrayersbut in order to rescue as many souls
as possible who were searching for the 'fragrance of true Christianity' (as he
loved to call it). Thus, while avoiding at least the appearance of scandal, and
not trying to 'provoke' anyone in any way, he nonetheless cast the nets far and
wide. And, as we know, he caught many 'fish.'"18
What Fr. Alexey says is borne out by Fr. Seraphim's letters
and Chronicle entries. In 1980, when people from Antiochian Orthodox churches
in California began making pilgrimages to the monastery, Fr. Seraphim expressed
his joy at seeing the fervency of their faith. "All are very eager young
Orthodox," he wrote, "a real revival is taking place in America!"19
Some of these pilgrims were cradle Orthodox from various ethnic backgrounds,
others were converts. In time three of the lay pilgrims from the Antiochian
Church would be ordained as priests.
In December of 1981, Fr. Seraphim wrote in a letter:
"Recently we were visited by another Antiochian priest (from Los Angeles)***, and
just the fact of our friendship is a source of strength which helps them to
struggle more themselves. What the end will be, jurisdictionally speaking, I
don't know. But we must have the image of the Russian Church Abroad adjusted
away from the 'fanatic party line,' which up to now has tried to take overand
whose failure is now becoming evident."20
In another letter, Fr. Seraphim responded to the questions
of one of his spiritual sons, who, being in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad,
wanted to marry a woman in the "rival" Orthodox Church in America (Metropolia).
The woman's priest, being devoted to his own jurisdiction, refused to marry the
couple until the young man left the Russian Church Abroad. "Boldly unite
yourself to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church," the priest wrote to
the young man. "A step in this direction would modify my opinion considerably."
"Help!" wrote the young man to Fr. Seraphim. "I need your
advice and prayers as to what to do. The whole situation is very confusing to
me, and of course to [my fiancée] also...."
In this dilemma of nuptial happiness vs. jurisdictional
divisions, Fr. Seraphim wrote to his spiritual son: "I think he [the priest] is
being overly dramatic about the whole matter. The question of 'jurisdictions'
(in the case of the O.C.A. and our Church Abroad) is not such a crucial one
that it would prevent marriage, even if the partners were to belong to
different jurisdictions; to be sure, oneness of mind on this question is
preferable, but in practice this is worked out by the couples themselves."21
A few days later, Fr. Seraphim wrote a conciliatory letter to the priest.
Fr. Seraphim also maintained that jurisdictional divisions
should not prevent one from receiving Holy Communion. In his talk at the 1979
St. Herman Pilgrimage, "Orthodox Christians Facing the 1980s," he related an
example from Russia which he had read in the writings of Fr. Dimitry Dudko:
"Fr. Dimitry says he talked to one person in the Catacomb Church. This person
was totally cut off from the Sacraments because in his area the Catacomb Church
was totally absent. He was sort of surviving, keeping up the faith, being
loyal. He had a spiritual talk with Fr. Dimitry; and, as Fr. Dimitry says,
'When he got finished talking to me, he received Communion from me.' If you're
looking from the strict point of view that one must be with the Catacomb Church
at all costs, you can say he shouldn't have done that.**** But from the pastoral,
spiritual point of view, in this particular circumstance that was the best
thing for him: to receive the Sacraments and God's grace so that he would have
the strength to keep struggling. And Fr. Dimitry said that, as a result, at
once this man came alive. Before he was just struggling by his own will, with
no access to the Sacraments. Now he had the Sacraments and suddenly he felt new
life come into him, because the grace of God acts. If he had continued without
Communionwho knows?he might have finally become discouraged and fallen away
from Christ altogether. In such a case we cannot judge by the letter of the
law. We have to judgeand that's what Fr. Dimitry is constantly doingaccording
to the spiritual needs of the moment."22
Fr. Seraphim believed that, as the Church entered into more
difficult times, it would become ever more crucial for believers to look beyond
jurisdictional divisions. In a letter of 1978 he wrote:
"We feel the signs of the times point more and more to a
coming 'catacomb' existence, whatever form it may take, and the more we can
prepare for it now the better.... Every such monastery or community we look on as
a part of the future catacomb 'network' of strugglers for true Orthodoxy;
probably in those times (if they will really be as critical as they look from
here) the 'jurisdictional' question will recede into the background."23
We have spoken
earlier of how Fr. Seraphim never altered his basic stance against ecumenism
and reform in the Church. In his later years, however, when he saw people
calling those of other jurisdictions "heretics" because they went to ecumenical
gatherings, he took pains to define this stance more clearly. In his "Defense
of Fr. Dimitry Dudko," he wrote:
"Some would-be zealots of Orthodoxy use the term
[ecumenism] in entirely too imprecise a fashion, as though the very use of the
term or contact with an 'ecumenical' organization is itself a 'heresy.' Such
views are clearly exaggerations. 'Ecumenism' is a heresy only if it
actually involves the denial that Orthodoxy is the true Church of Christ. A few
of the Orthodox leaders of the ecumenical movement have gone this far; but most
Orthodox participants in the ecumenical movement have not said this
much; and a few (such as the late Fr. Georges Florovsky) have only irritated
the Protestants in the ecumenical movement by frequently stating at ecumenical
gatherings that Orthodoxy is the Church of Christ. One must certainly
criticize the participation of even these latter persons in the ecumenical
movement, which at its best is misleading and vague about the nature of
Christ's Church; but one cannot call such people 'heretics,' nor can one affirm
that any but a few Orthodox representatives have actually taught ecumenism as a
heresy. The battle for true Orthodoxy in our times is not aided by such
exaggerations."24 In another place Fr. Seraphim said: "The excessive
reaction against the ecumenical movement has the same worldly spirit that is
present in the ecumenical movement itself."25
Likewise, while not altering his position on the Church Calendar
question, Fr. Seraphim warned against exaggerating the importance of this issue
and thereby causing needless fighting and division. In his talk at the 1979 St.
Herman Pilgrimage, after speaking at length about inspiring developments in the
Orthodox Church of Africa, Fr. Seraphim addressed the concerns of super-correct
Orthodox who were put off by the fact that the African Orthodox converts were
on the New Calendar:
"Now some who wish to be correct will remind us that the
Orthodox Church in Africa is under the Patriarch of Alexandria, who is on the
New Calendar; and they might even think that we should have no contact with
them. About this I'd like to say a word.
"To preserve the ancient traditions and canons of the
Church is a good thing. And those who woefully and needlessly depart from them
will be judged by God. Those who introduced the New Calendar into the Orthodox
Church in the 1920s and later, and who thereby brought division and modernism
into the Church, will have much to answer for.
"But the simple people of Africa understand nothing of all
this, and to preach the correct Old Calendar to them could produce nothing more
than a squabble over theoretical points that would only interfere with their
simple reception of the Orthodox Faith. Western converts are often skilled in
debating such theoretical points, even to the extent of writing whole tomes and
treatises on the canons and their interpretation. But this is an Orthodoxy of
the head, full of the spirit of calculation and self-justification. What is
most of all needed, especially in the perilous days ahead, is the much deeper
Orthodoxy of the heart, which the simple letters we receive from Africa
At one time Fr.
Seraphim had cherished hopes for a united "Orthodox Zealot" movement to
counteract the deceptions of the last times. "Years ago," he wrote in 1979,
"when Fr. Herman and I were young and naive, we dreamed of a vigorous,
single-minded movement of zealous Orthodoxy among young converts, Russians,
Greeks, etc. Alas, we have become older and wiser and no longer expect much.
All our confessors of Orthodoxy have their all-too-human side also.... In so many
Orthodox zealots, it seems to me, there is an intellectual narrowness, combined
with some kind of political orientation, that produces factions right and left
and loses sight of the 'common task' which we thought (and still think) is so
clear, especially when you contrast it with the crude renovationism that is
going on now in the Metropolia, Greek Archdiocese, etc."27
But if Fr. Seraphim abandoned hope in any "zealot
movement," he never lost hope in the movement of souls who come miraculously to
Christ in His Orthodox Church out of all kinds of calamities, sins, and
desperate circumstances. This was how the whole of Christianity was founded:
sinful people saw grace in Jesus Christ, and their souls responded; they saw
that they were drowning, and He saved them; and out of them Christ built His
Church, which will last till the end of time.
In his talk at the 1981 St. Herman Pilgrimage, entitled
"The Search for Orthodoxy," Fr. Seraphim shared his optimism about the fact
that individuals all over the world, out of all kinds of situations, were
finding the true image of Jesus Christ in Orthodoxy:
"Americans, both young and old, weary of the rootless and
arbitrary teachings of contemporary Protestantism, are discovering the true and
profound Christianity of Orthodoxy.
"Roman Catholics, in the midst of a disintegrating church
structure, are finding that Orthodoxy is everything they once thought Roman
Catholicism to be.
"Young Jews, both in the Soviet Union and the free world,
are increasingly finding the answer to the present-day spiritual vacuum among
their own people in conversion to Orthodoxy....
"In Russia, the search for roots is obvious, and is bound
up with the recovery of national awareness among the Russian people after
sixty-some years of atheism and destruction of Russian religious institutions.
If one tries to return to what was before the atheist regime, one comes to nothing
"Something similar is happening on a smaller scale to the
Orthodox young people of Greece who are rejecting the modern Westernism that
has poisoned Greek society for the past century and more; these young people
are finding their roots in the Orthodox past of Greece, and above all in the
center of Orthodox life, its monasticism."28
As we have seen, Fr. Seraphim was especially interested in
the conversion of peoples in Africa to Orthodox Christianity, having
corresponded with, published articles about, and helped support Orthodox
African converts for many years. "What of Africa?" he asked in his lecture.
"What kind of Orthodox roots can Africans find? As surprising as it may seem to
us, Orthodoxyand Christianity in generalis growing faster in Africa than
anywhere else in the world, and in a matter of some years Africa will become
the leading Christian continent, both in number of believers, and even more in
the fervor of their faith. Tertullian, the second-century Christian writer, has
said that the human soul by nature is Christian, and this is proving true in
the eagerness of the once-pagan African peoples to accept Christianity, which
has only been preached below the Sahara in the last one hundred years. Roman
Catholicism and various Protestant sects have attracted many followers in
Africa, but those who really seek for the roots of Christianity are finding
Orthodoxy. Perhaps not all of you know the story of the two Anglican
seminarians in Uganda in the 1920s who in their studies came to the conclusion
that only Orthodoxy was the 'true old religion' from which all the modern sects
of the West have deviated. Today the African Orthodox Churches in Uganda,
Kenya, and other countries of East Africa are examples of the fruitfulness of
the search for Orthodoxy today. With hardly any help from the outside Orthodox
world, they have come to the fullness of Orthodoxy, avoiding the pitfalls which
many Western converts have fallen into."29
After Fr. Seraphim's repose, a mission on the other side of
the African continentin Zairesaw great growth, thanks especially to the
righteous Hieromonk Cosmas Aslanidis (+1989)
and other missionary monks from Mount Athos.30 Later a Greek priest
from Australia, Archimandrite (now Bishop) Nektarios Kellis, began an Orthodox
mission in Madagascar, which is now flourishing.31 Thousands of
souls have been baptized in both these countries, worshipping Jesus Christ in
humility, poverty, and truth. Fr. Seraphim would have rejoiced to see this.
The return of American Protestants to their historical
Christian roots also drew Fr. Seraphim's attention. "In America," he said, "the
need for roots is obvious: the fragmentation of Christian sects and the diverse
understandings of Christian doctrine and practicebased upon personal interpretation
of Scripture and of Christian lifepoint to the need to return to the original,
undivided Christianity, which is Orthodoxy. Just in the past few years more and
more Protestants have been finding their way to the Church. There is even a
group, organized as the 'Evangelical Orthodox Church,' which has come all the
way from the Billy Graham-type 'Campus Crusade' movement of the 1950s to a deep
awareness of the need for sacraments, hierarchy, historical continuity with the
ancient Church, and all the rest that Orthodoxy has to offer as the true
Apostolic Christianity. This movement has still much to say in contemporary
America, and there are ways we Orthodox can help it."32 In 1987,
five years after Fr. Seraphim's repose, the Evangelical Orthodox movement was
received into the Orthodox Church through the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese
of North America, and since that time it has done much to reach out to
disillusioned Protestants and bring them into the Church.
Bound up with the search for roots, Fr. Seraphim pointed
out, is the search for stability: "Orthodoxy's stability is the
unchanging truth which it has received and passed on from generation to
generation, from the time of Christ and His Apostles to our own day. It is no
wonder, then, that it is attracting souls that are hungry most of all for
truththe truth that comes from God and gives meaning and a point of anchor for
all those tossed about on the sea of this life.
"But possibly the deepest and most attractive thing about
Orthodoxy today is its message of love. The most discouraging thing
about today's world is that it has become so cold and heartless. In the Gospel
of St. Matthew our Lord tells us that a leading characteristic of the last
times will be that the love of many will grow cold (Matt. 24:12); and
the Apostle of love, St. John the Theologian, records our Lord as saying that
the chief distinguishing mark of His disciples is the love they have one for
another (John 13:35). The most influential Orthodox teachers of recent times
have been those most filled with love, who attract people to the riches of the
Orthodox Faith by their own example of overflowing, self-sacrificing love: St.
John of Kronstadt, St. Nektarios of Pentapolis, our own Archbishop John
"Being filled with the Gospel teaching and trying to live
by it, we should have love and compassion for the miserable humanity of our
days. Probably never have people been more unhappy than the people of our days,
even with all the outward conveniences and gadgets our society provides us
with. People are suffering and dying for the lack of Godand we can help give
God to them. The love of many has truly grown cold in our daysbut let us not
be cold. As long as Christ sends us His grace and warms our hearts, we do not
need to be cold."33
hope for the conversion of souls to Orthodoxy was rooted in his belief that the
Orthodox Church, being truly the Church that Christ founded, possesses the
fullness of Christ's grace and all the means He has given mankind to prepare
for His Kingdom. In a letter to Alison written in 1963, not long after his own
conversion, Fr. Seraphim had affirmed that "Orthodoxy is the preparation of
souls for this Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven. The schismatic Churches have, in
lesser or greater measure, forgotten this truth and compromised with the world;
Orthodoxy alone has remained otherworldly. The aim of the Orthodox life (of
which we all fall miserably short) is to live in this life in constant
remembrance of the next life, in fact to see even in this life, through the
grace of our Lord, the beginning of that life."34
Fr. Seraphim's hope in the Church was ultimately a hope in
that other life, for it is by believing in Christ and participating in the life
of His Body on earth that we can live forever in His Body in heaven.
Thiseternal life in Christ, in the Kingdom of Heavenwas Fr. Seraphim's final
The following abbreviations have been used in these Notes:
FSRFr. Seraphim Rose
LERLetter of Eugene Rose
LFSRLetter of Fr. Seraphim Rose
JERPhilosophical Journal of Eugene Rose, 1960–62
OWThe Orthodox Word
SHBSt. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, California
CSHBChronicle of the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, written by Eugene/Fr. Seraphim Rose
Letter, Journal and Chronicle dates are according to the civil calendar, except where a
Church feast day is indicated, in which case both the Church (Julian or "Old"
Calendar) and civil (Gregorian or "New" Calendar) dates are given.
Most of the letters of Fr. Seraphim cited in this book were preserved in carbon copy
by Fr. Seraphim himself; some were sent by their recipients to the author for
publication in this book. In some of the references to letters the names of the
recipients have been abbreviated, and in others the names have been omitted
altogether in order to protect the privacy of living persons.
The book Letters from Fr. Seraphim by Fr. Alexey
Young includes many letters that were not preserved by Fr. Seraphim in carbon
copy. When we have quoted these letters directly from this book, references to
the book have been given.
* This was written a few months before Archbishop Averky's repose in 1976.
** The reform agenda of the failed "Living Church" or "Renovationist" movement in Russia included
making provisions for a married episcopacy and the remarriage of widowed clergy.
*** This was Fr. Paul O'Callaghan, assistant pastor of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral
in Los Angeles, later dean of St. George Cathedral in Wichita, Kansas.
**** I.e., because Fr. Dimitry was a priest of the Moscow Patriarchate.
1. Archbishop Averky, Stand Fast in the Truth (Mt.
Holy Springs, Penn.), p. 2.
2. Archbishop Averky, "What Is Orthodoxy?" Orthodox Life
(May–June 1976), pp. 2–3.
3. LFSR to Fr. Valery Lukianov, Feb. 1, 1975.
4. LFSR to Dr. Alexander Kalomiros, Feb. 3, 1976.
5. Archimandrite Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith and
Life in Christ (Belmont, Mass.: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek
Studies, 1994), p. 24.
6. Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, Orthodox Dogmatic
Theology (SHB, 1984), pp. 224, 226.
7. Ibid., p. 238.
8. LFSR to A., Oct. 31, 1972.
9. LFSR to Alexey Young, Oct. 17, 1975.
10. [FSR], "Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky: Theology in
the Ancient Tradition," OW, no. 96 (1981), p. 77. Later published in
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (SHB,
1983), p. 14.
11. FSR, "Living the Orthodox Worldview," OW, no.
105 (1982), pp. 176.
13. I. M. Andreyev, Russia’s Catacomb Saints, pp. 226–27.
14. Ibid., p. 21.
15. Archbishop John Maximovitch, "The Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia," OW, no. 37 (1971), p. 79.
16. LFSR to J. H., Sept., 16, 1980.
17. [FSR], "In Defense of Fr. Dimitry Dudko." OW, no.
92 (1980), p. 127.
18. Letter of Fr. Alexey Young to the author, Aug. 1, 1991.
19. CSHB, June 24, 1980.
20. LFSR to Fr. Alexey Young, Dec. 5, 1981. In Letters
from Fr. Seraphim, p. 227.
21. LFSR to T., Feb. 22, 1979.
22. "Orthodox Christians Facing the 1980s," a talk given at
the 1979 St. Herman Pilgrimage. Transcript of oral delivery.
23. LFSR to Fr. C., June 1, 1978.
24. [FSR], "In Defense of Father Dimitry Dudko," p.
25. "Orthodox Christians Facing the 1980s." Transcript of
27. LFSR to Fr. Theodore, June 6, 1979.
28. FSR, "The Search for Orthodoxy," OW, no. 226
(2002), pp. 243–44.
29. Ibid., p. 244.
30. See "Priest-monk Cosmas of Grigoriou, Enlightener of
Zaire," OW, no. 147 (1989), pp. 232–40, 249–56; and Demetrios Alanides
and Monk Damascene Grigoriatis, Apostle to Zaire: The Life and Legacy of
Blessed Father Cosmas of Grigoriou (Thessalonica, Greece: Uncut Mountain
31. See Matina Kouvoussis, "Miracle in Madagascar: The
Orthodox Mission Today," OW, no. 198 (1998), pp. 17–23.
32. FSR, "The Search for Orthodoxy," pp. 244–45.
33. Ibid., pp. 246–47, 253–54.
34. LER to Alison, July 15, 1963.
From Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works (Platina, CA: St. Herman Press),
pp. 986-1001. Copyright 2003 by the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, California. Used with permission.