The Orthodox World-View
by Father Seraphim Rose of Platina
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 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 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
childrearing, 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 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 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 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 ax-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 v 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 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 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 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 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
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.
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 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 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
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 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
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
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 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 todays 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 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 these signs?
The 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 treat of the unthinkable universal nuclear war, which could be set
off by the touch of a button.
The widespread natural disasters: earthquakes, and now volcanoes the 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 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.
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 now 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
and us 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 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
From The Orthodox Word, vol. 18, no. 4 (105), July-August
1982, pp. 160-176.