19 June 2021
Four years after encountering Orthodoxy, Craig Young, along with his wife Susan, decided they wanted to be Orthodox. They had both been in the Roman Catholic church. The year was 1970 and they were both in their mid-20s. That year they attended Liturgy at the cathedral in San Francisco, and afterwards approached Archbishop Anthony and told him that they wanted to be Orthodox. The Archbishop called for Fr. Seraphim (with Fr. Herman), who took the Youngs over to a bench and sat them down. Craig Young reported later:
"The two men rained a barrage of questions on us:
'So, why do you want to be Orthodox? Do you know what that means? What's the difference between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism? Why do you want to join our Russian Church Abroad instead of some other jurisdiction? Don't you know we are a small, persecuted Church living in exile? Everybody hates us and makes fun of us. Why do you want to join a Church like this? Do you understand what really happens in the Divine Liturgy?'
Frankly, it was daunting. Somehow we had thought we would be immediately welcomed with open arms, as though the Church had been waiting for us all these centuries; instead we were being given the third degree!"
Classic Introduction to Orthodoxy
Door to Paradise
(original by former monk John Marler)
29 June 2020
New Russian Marytr Valentine Sventitsky gives us criteria by which we can judge for ourselves whether we are walking the path of renunciation or the broad way with the perishing multitudes. To help us discern, he lists for us both external and inward signs. And he offers comforting instruction on how to live in the world, with a family and a job, yet be "not of the world." He calls it "invisible monasticism."
The 1st of THREE DISCUSSIONS is posted here:
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’.
The Lord said to His disciples: Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto me, and few there be that find it. (Matt. 7:13-14)
When the disciples were afrighted by the difficulty of the path of salvation and asked the Lord: “Who then can be saved?” Christ looked at them and said: “With men it is impossible but not with God, for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).
I am afraid that the reading of The Ladder of St. John * will arouse this fear, this confusion. “Who can ascend the Ladder?” my spiritual children will ask. With men it is impossble; but not with God, for with God all things are possible.
*[Ladder of Divine Ascent is a divinely inspired manual for monks read during Great Lent by monks and laymen.]
Only by trusting in these words is it possible to enter upon the path of spiritual life. The Lord expects from us an effort according to our human strength, in measure of our human understanding; the rest is given to us by Divine grace, by God’s help.
For this reason, in approaching The Ladder of St. John, let us not be so presumptuous as to set ourselves the task of scaling its heights. The task of the ascetic is to labor his whole life for the Lord. Whatever fruits are produced – these are the result of God’s grace.
The first step of the Ladder demands from us a proper attitude towards “the world”. One must place it in opposition to the self, to draw a certain line of separation, to renounce it. The first word of St. John is “On Renunciation of the World,” while the next, the second step is “On Dispassion.”
“In the very beginning of our renunciation, it is certainly with labor and grief that we practice the virtues. But when we have made progress in them, we no longer feel sorrow, or we feel little sorrow. But as soon as our mortal mind is consumed and mastered by our zeal, we practice them with all joy and eagerness, with love and with divine fire.”
“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,” says the Apostle Paul. Certain trials await also those who enter the path of spiritual life. The control of worldly life upon us is too powerful for us to be able to sever the internal chains which bind us to the world, without pain, without regret, without sorrow. But the great experience of the ascetics instills in us a joyous courage. This experience speaks to us of what lies ahead, of what awaits us when we do not stop midway, when, having “made progress” and conquered “earthly wisdom,” we rise somewhat above worldly life. Then this spiritual struggle of renunciation will fill us with joy. Divine fire and fervor will take hold of us…
“Those who have really determined to serve Christ, with the help of spiritual fathers and their own self-knowledge, will strive before all else to choose a place, and away of life, and a habitation, and exercises suitable for them. For community life is not for all, on account of covetousness and places of solitude are not for all, on account of anger. But each will consider what is most suited to his needs.”
This injunction of St John pertains not only to those who strive spiritually in monasticism, but pertains equally to us, people in the world. Those who traverse the path of spiritual life in the world, who renounce it inwardly, who do not leave for monasteries, deserts and reclusion, although under conditions of a worldly life, nevertheless must inevitably make even an outward change in their life. A specific external discipline of life is needed, which must be established by “self-knowledge,” but with the knowledge, counsel, and approval of a spiritual father.
“The man who really loves the Lord, who has made a real effort to find the future Kingdom, who is really pained by his sins, who is really mindful of eternal torment and judgment, who really lives in fear of his own departure, will not love.. anything at all on earth.”
And how could he love it? That heavenly Jerusalem, that eternal Kingdom – if it is revealed to the inner eyes – will immediately illumine the life in the world with a special radiance. That man will see how trifling and insubstantial are the temptations of the world; how vain the concerns. The temporal, the fleeting will become for him like a dream; how terrible then will appear to him sins against the Lord! What great justice will he then behold in the eternal torments awaiting those souls who have come to love the temporal and have renounced Christ! For the eternal, immortal human soul, which accumulates the temporal and perishable, itself plunges into the power of eternal death.
“The man who has come to hate the world has escaped sorrow. But he who has an attachment to anything visible is not yet delivered from grief. For how is it possible not to be sad at the loss of something we love?”
At first it appears that to renounce the world means to choose the way that knows no joy. Earthly happiness seems to him to be the only joy in life. But that is self-deceit. It is the devil’s delusion. What passes for worldly joy devastates the soul; it is the source of despondency, of disappointment and sadness.
“Let us pay close attention to ourselves so that we are not deceived into thinking that we are following the strait and narrow way, when in actual fact we are keeping to the wide and broad way. The following will show you what the narrow way means: mortification of the stomach, all-night standing, water in moderation, short rations of bread, the purifying draught of dishonor, sneers, derision, insults, the cutting off of one’s own will, patience in annoyances, unmurmuring endurance of scorn, disregard of insults, and the habit, when wronged, of bearing it sturdily; when slandered, of not being indignant; when humiliated, not to be angry; when condemned, to be humble. Blessed are they who follow the way we have just described, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Here St. John warns us against delusion. It may seem to a man that he has chosen for himself the narrow path, that he is not walking along the broad, worldly highway, down which walk the perishing multitudes. By distracting the inner concentration, the power of darkness leads him away from the true, narrow path of salvation.”
“Pay heed to yourself!” says St. John. “Pay heed, lest you succumb to this delusion. And here are the signs by which you might verify on which path it is you are walking: the narrow unto salvation, or wandering, rather, along the broad and spacious path to perdition. For, the outward signs: if you subdue your belly with fasting, if you are not lazy in rising for the nocturnal prayer, if you drink less water and do not think of clothing, if you are content to eat only bread – you are walking along the narrow path. While here are the inward signs: if you have cut off your own will, and patiently and cheerfully carry out obediences; if you bear dishonor, mockery, and offenses without murmuring; if you are not angered by slander and humble yourself when you are criticized – then you are going along the narrow path. It is difficult, truly this path is difficult But blessed are those who follow it, “for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven!”
“Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me: ‘We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?’ I replied to them: ‘Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not hate anyone; do not be absent from the divine services; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness, and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.”
This reply of St. John of the Ladder has a special significance in our days. A desert-dweller of our time told me that a number of desert-dwellers had discussed the question of whether or not they should found a monastery for themselves. After wards, as he was Ascending a mountain, he was granted a vision. An angel appeared to him and said, “This is not the time to build monasteries.”
This was told to me a few months before the war with the Germans.
“Not the time to build monasteries”! Truly this is so! It is time, however, to struggle in monastic asceticism! Today the outward form of monastic life is accessible to very few. And the spiritual life of Christians must now be conducted under the conditions of secular life. They are faced with the task of founding invisible spiritual monasteries with their lives primarily through the podvig of prayer. Few today are able to live behind the stone walls of a monastery which set apart that vain world from this the Christian world which is of God But does this mean that there are no walls which can be built between that world and this?
The inner renunciation of the world – here is the foundation of this monastery. By prayer, by fighting with the passions, by a pure life, by cutting off one’s evil will, by ascetic struggle and labor for Christ – wholeheartedly trusting in the help of God’s grace – raise up the walls of this monastery which is invisible to human eyes. Do not judge, do not lie, love your neighbor, quench all enmity in your hearts – and your inner life will become for you a monastery. Build these invisible spiritual monasteries. Enter therein, leaving behind the vanity of this world. The time for this has come, the favorable season of the Lord! Amen!
source: Orthodox Word magazine #111 July-Aug 1983
Testimony about Fr. Seraphim
Orthodox Word Magazine 1983
Letter to Editor
While living at the St. Herman of Alaska Monastery, in February, 1982, I accompanied Hieromonk Seraphim of thrice-blessed memory to Redding , Calif., where he gave a lecture at the St. Herman of Alaska Winter Pilgrimage and celegrated the Diving Liturgy the following day on the feast of the Meeting of the Lord at the Surety-of-Sinners Mission Parish.
Shortly after Liturgy on the day of the Feast, Father Seraphim sent me together with several brothers to buy supplies and groceries for the monastery, entrusting me with $150. Having brought a full shopping cart to the checkstand, I suddenly realized that I didn't have the money. I was shocked, felt terrible that I had lost the money, and proceeded to blame and reproach everyone and everything else vocally and mentally. We phoned the church and Father Seraphim told us to return. When we had parked in the driveway, I started walking towards the church and met Father Seraphim alone halfway, and he said, "You have it right there," pointing to my chest. "Archbishop John told me. You didn't think of praying to him, did you?"
With self-assurance I felt my chest and with simultaneous joy and shame I found the money in a pocket which I thought I had certainly searched, and startled, I replied that, indeed, I hadn't prayed to Vladika John. Father Seraphim them comforted me, explaining that after we had finished speaking on the phone, he had gone immediately to church on the left side of which there is a large portrait of Archibshop John together with his mitre and several other portraits and relics associated with his life and person and there he had asked Vladika John to help us find the money. Archbishop John informed him that I had the money right in my pocket (under my very nose!).
Thus, through the intercession of God's righteous ones, a sure trial and temptation were transformed into a revelation of the mystery of holiness and grace.
source: Orthodox Word magazine #111 July-Aug 1983
26 June 2020
Vision of Elder Iliodore of Glinsk (1795 - 1879)
While still a young hierodeacon, Elder Iliodore, was given a vision. Described in his own words thus:
Once late in the evening I was sitting my my cell alone reading the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, and I stopped on the 2nd chapter of his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, on verses 2 – 10. I stopped on these frightful verses of the holy Apostle and became deep in reflection, considering the appearance in the world of the man fo sin, the son of perditiion, whose very appearnace would be according to the activitiy of satan, so that this frightful man would sit in the temple of God, giving himself off for God and demanding for himself Divine honors. What kind of frightful man this will be, I thought, and what a frightful time will that be for those living on earth! At the same time, naturally, there came the desire not to see this terrible time, and therefore there was formed in my mind the basic though of turning to God in such words: O Lord! Grant me not to see this terrible time! At this time I felt that someone behind me had placed his hand on my fight shoulder and said: You yourself will see it in part.
Feeling the touch on my shoulder and hearing a voice speaking, I looked around, but there was no one, and the door of the cell was locked. Again I looked aroung to be convinced, but there was no one. I was astonished and began to reflect what this might mean and who this invisible one mught be who had spoken and answered my thoughts. Would I really see, even if only 'in part,' that frightful time, and how soon would it be? For a long time I reflected and thought in perplexity and fear, going from one reflection to another. Finally, trusting in the will of God, I performed my evening rule, lay down to rest, and had just forgotten myself in a light sleep when I saw the following vision:
I was standing at night in some kind of high building. Around me there were many large constructions, such as there are in large cities. Above me was the vault of heaven, adorned with brightly shining stars, as happens on a clear, moonless night. Looking at the vault of heaven, I admired the beauty of the fixed stars. Then, turning my glance to the east, I saw there, coming up from behind the horizon, an oval of enormous dimensions; it was composed of stars of various sizes. In the middle of the oval in its upper and lower parts, there were stars of large size which gradually became smaller, and at the sides of the oval they became quite small. In the midst of the oval there was traced with large letters the name ALEXANDER.
This oval rose in the east and went quietly, moving majestically and setting in the west. Looking at the magnificent beauty of the mvoement of the oval, I reflected and said to myself, 'How glorious and great is our Orthodox Faith, O Orthodox Tsar! Behold, his name also is so glorious and magnificent in the heavens' (Alexander I reigned 1801 – 1825).
Having followed with my eyes the oval of stars until it was concealed in the west beyond the horizon, I again looked to the east and I saw: There came out from there a second oval of stars, just as magnficent as and in all respects like the first one, and in its midst there was depicted another name in large letters – NICHOLAS. And an inward voice informed me that after Alexander I there would be, as the successor of his throne, Nicholas (Nicholas I, 1825 – 1855). And this was astonishing for me, for the heir of the throne was not Nicholas, but Constantine Pavlovish. This oval also went just as majestically along the horizon and, setting in the west, was hidden beyond the horizon.
Having followed this oval also with my eyes, I again directed my gaze to the east, and again I saw there an oval of stars rising, in form like the first two in all respects, but considerably smaller in size and composed of stars of small size and, in addition, with the color of blood. In the midst of the oval there was depicted with bloody letters the name – ALEXANDER. And an inward voice informed me that after Nicholas the successor of his throne would be Alexander, whose days would be shorted by an evil deed, (Alexander II, 1855– 1881, was assisinated by anarchists). This oval went along the sky and was quickly hidden in the west byond the horizon.
Then from the wast, in the same way, there arose, passed along the sky, and was concealed in the west with great rapidity an oval like the first ones, but only of small size, with the name delineated on it weakly and as it were in the fog – ALEXANDER. And I was informed by an inward voice that the days of this Emperor would be shortened, and his reign over the Russian people would be short (Alexander III 1881 – 1894).
After this in the east, delineated palely and mistily, appeared the name NICHOLAS. There was no oval of stars around it; it moved along the sky as it were my jumps and then entered into a dark cloud out of which its separate letters separated in disorder. (Nicholas II, 1894 – 1918, martyred by the Bolsheviks at the beginning of the present age of lawlessness). After this there came an impenetrable darkness and it seemed to me that everything was falling to pieces, like cardboard playhouses, at the moment of the end of the world. Terror seized me, standing at that time on an elevated place which was not connected with the world which was being destroyed.
source: Orthodox Word magazine #110 (May-June 1983)
Many considered Batiushka Nektary to be clairvoyant; they gave a symbolic interpretation to his every gesture. At times he found this very burdensome. Once he told of the following incident: "Sometimes I have presentiments and the man's soul is opened up to me, but sometimes not. There was an amazing case. A woman came to me complaining about her nine year-old son, that he was unmanageable. And I told her, 'Have patience until he reaches the age of 12.' I said this not because I had any particular feelings, but just from what I had learned -- that at the age of 12 a boy often undergoes changes. The woman left and I forgot about her. In three years the mother came weeping: 'My son has died; he just turned 12.' People, of course, say, 'Look! Batiushka prophesied,' but it was just a simple calculation according to what I have learned. Later I asked myself -- did I have any premonitions or not? No, I felt nothing.
Sometimes Batiushka would come straight out and say, "To you it is only half~revealed, but I know it."
He possessed a wonderful simplicity of heart, a penetrating mind, and a gentle sense of humor. Even in old age he could break out into a child's laughter. He loved animals and birds. He had a cat who always obeyed him and he loved to say, "Elder Gerasim was a great elder and therefore he had a lion. But we are small -- we have a cat." And he told a delightful story about how a cat saved Noah's ark when the devil entered a mouse and tried to gnaw through the hull. At the last minute the cat caught the wicked mouse and for that all cats go to paradise. This sense of humor was characteristic of Batiushka.
source: Orthodox Word magazine #129 (July-August 1986)
BOOK: Elder Nektary of Optina, by I.M. Kontzevich
Having lived through a time of persecution worse than any other in the thousand-year history of the Russian Orthodox Church, God gave Elder Nektary to Russia as a consolation to the suffering souls of the faithful and a voice of prophecy. Through these eyewitness accounts of his life, the "spiritual grandfather" of Orthodoxy in America inspires us with innocent simplicity, sobriety and humility toward the path to true life in Christ.
On January 2, 1833, after Matins, as Elder Philaret ws standing on the roof of his cell, he saw a light shinging in the sky and someone's soul being borne to heaven by singing angels. He looked at it for a long time and called to several monks. He pointed to the unusual light and said, "That is how the souls of the righteous are carried off! In Sarov, Fr. Serapim has just gone to his rest." Only two of th ebrethren were vouchsfed to see the light. Later they found out that on that very night, Fr. Seraphim ad died.
Source: OW 107 pp. 270 – 271
19 June 2020
A friend in UK shares these urls with us:
Homilies of Fr Seraphim Rose
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