19 June 2020
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)
01 April 2020
"It is later than you thnk!"
American Apostle to the Russian People
No sarcasm is involved in the headline
Nothing to do with sleek businessmen, fast food chains or investment schemes. And many Russian Christians will recognize him right away: few Christian stores or church book counters would not carry translations from Fr. Seraphim Rose.
It should be noted, however, that his apostleship ─ to Russia or to any other nation into whose languages his works are translated ─ did not emerge until he finished his earthly sojourn: he died in September, 1982 at the age of 48, and the twentieth anniversary of his untimely death is solemnly observed these days all over the globe. And here on earth he lived in a tiny Orthodox monastic community in the mountains of North California, constantly immersed into the church service cycle, into research, writing, editing and publishing work, translating treasures of Christian heritage into English, responding to letters from readers and inquirers, attending to the daily needs like gardening, firewood, truck engine and printing equipment, and praying in silence.
Who was he, that humble, reticent priest-monk? Eugene Rose before monasticism, younger son of a janitor, born in San Diego, CA, in his school and college years he had little involvement with, or interest for Christianity. But he had a bright, inquisitive mind and an honest heart, yearning for the truth ─ and that has made all the difference.
He studied Buddhism under Alan Watts in San Francisco and Chinese philosophy in the University of California, Berkeley, excelling in any field he touched and realizing at the same time that the full truth had to be found elsewhere… As he later recalled, “…a new idea began to enter my awareness: that Truth was not just an abstract idea, sought and known by the mind, but rather something personal ─ even a Person ─ sought and loved by the heart. And that is how I met Christ”.
A number of outer circumstances furthered his conversion. Eugene had connections to the Russian immigrant community in San Francisco with very strong Orthodox Christian roots. In 1962 it was headed by Archbishop John Maximovich, known by some of his followers in China and Western Europe as a saint even during his lifetime (and indeed, he was canonized in 1994 in San Francisco). He took spiritual charge over the young American inquirer, and Fr. Seraphim throughout his life kept the deepest devotion to Archbishop John.
But there is more to it. A throng of faithful flocked around the saintly Archbishop ─ yet no one else was to become like Fr. Seraphim. Much later a person who had known him quite well summarized it as follows:
“He was very intelligent ─ such a genius that few people saw him for what he was. But at the same time he was very simple, not complicated at all, rather like his father and mother. He could see things exactly the way they were ─ a down-to-earth, warm, honest man”. Fr. Seraphim’s heritage, both tangible and intangible, is truly immense, and even today, twenty years after his death, it keeps unfolding, opening new riches. A new volume of his correspondence, Letters from Fr. Seraphim, has just been published. Before that, a vast collection Genesis, Creation and Early Man has appeared, devoted mostly to the evolution vs. creation controversy. His most widely known work, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, reprinted many times in the US and abroad, should be credited for exposing numerous modern-day spiritual deceptions and rescuing countless souls from the New Age and Occult sects. The Soul After Death spells out the traditional Christian view and explains otherwise mysterious “near-death” and “after-death experiences”. The Orthodox Word bi-monthly, published by Fr. Seraphim since 1965, at times single-handedly, is still serving the English-speaking Christians.
And that’s just a small portion of what he has done. His disciples, both clergy and laity, are found in Orthodox communities all over the US and, in fact, all over the world; his articles, sermons and lectures provide an ever-fresh source of knowledge and inspiration. And his gravesite in Platina, CA has become a popular place of pilgrimage for those who loved him here on earth as well as those who never met him personally.
From the preface to the Heavenly Realm, a collection of essays by Eugene Rose, future Fr. Seraphim:
“The wonder of a soul of a modern young man who managed somehow to penetrate into the realm of the rich Christian tradition, then to saturate himself by its divine splendor, and finally to emerge as a living link with the Church Fathers ─ is indeed awesome! Who would suspect that our prosaic America could produce such a visionary?” Remembering Fr. Seraphim (Orthodox America, Aug.-Sep. 1982)
• In conversation he was the proverbial “man of few words”. He had no interest in idle chatter, seldom expressed a personal preference for anything, and disliked fakery of all kinds, often speaking of the “Disneyland mentality” of America which was making it impossible for people to seek and find the truth. (Such aversion to Disney, in those years ostensibly innocent, seemed strange to many ─ but soon the cat will be out of the bag, and in 1996 American Christians will begin boycotting Disney – ed.) He worried about the fact that most of us were “unconscious”: we were so abysmally ignorant of the great truths of our Faith… “Be awake, aware, informed!...” ─ he would plead, ─ “Don’t keep Orthodoxy to yourself as though it were some private treasure. Share it!”
• Fr. Seraphim was an inspiration for thousands of people. He gave some of the most inspiring sermons ever uttered in the English language. His constant counsel was: “Never excuse yourself. If you must, or think you must, give way to a weakness, then be certain to recognize it as a weakness and a sin. But see your own faults and condemn not your brother!”
During the latter portion of his life, Fr. Seraphim continually emphasized the need for spiritual attentiveness in preparation for struggles to come. He seemed to have an awareness, a foreknowledge of apocalyptic times ahead. His message was conveyed in a well-known phrase: “It is later than you think!”
• The death of Fr. Seraphim produced a spiritual phenomenon untold of in our times. Lying in state in a crude wooden coffin in the humble monastery church, not only did the body remain soft and life-like in the summer heat, but so comforting was his face that one could not bear to cover it, in the traditional monastic way. Even children could hardly move away from the coffin, since the body brought such internal peace and suggested such love. Everyone was aware that, in our times, among us, a holy man had left in his body a phenomenon that challenges science and our hearts.
From God’s Revelation to the Human Heart by Fr. Seraphim (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1987) …Is there a special organ for receiving revelation from God? Yes, in a certain sense there is such an organ, though usually we close it and do not let it open up: God’s revelation is given to something called a loving heart. We know from the Scriptures that God is love; Christianity is the religion of love (you may look at the failures, see people who call themselves Christians and are not, and say there is no love there; but Christianity is indeed the religion of love when it is successful and practiced in the right way)… If you ask anyone who knew Archbishop John what it was that drew people to him ─ and still draws people who never knew him ─ the answer is always the same: he was overflowing with love; he sacrificed himself for his fellow men out of absolutely unselfish love for God and for them. This is why things were revealed to him which could not get through to other people and which he never could have known by natural means. He himself taught that, for all “mysticism” of our Orthodox Church that is found in the Lives of the Saints and the writings of the Holy Fathers, the Orthodox faithful always has both feet firmly on the ground, facing whatever situation is right in front of him. It is in accepting given situations, which requires a loving heart, that man encounters God. This loving heart is why anyone comes to a knowledge of the truth…
The opposite of the loving heart that receives revelation from God is cold calculation, getting what you can out of people; in religious life, this produces fakery and charlatanism of all descriptions. If you look at the religious world today, you see that a great deal of this is going on: so much fakery, posing, calculation, so much taking advantage of the winds of fashion…
From the Letters from Father Seraphim (Nikodemos, Richfield Springs, NY, 2001)
• Good heavens! What is happening to people? How easily one gets dragged off the path of serving God into all kinds of factions and jealousies and attempts at revenge.
• I think about... that older generation that is now almost gone, and I want to weep for the young know-it-alls who have missed the point. But the understanding comes only through real suffering, and how many can do that?
• Christians, surrounded by and already swimming in a sea of humanist-worldly philosophy and practice, must do everything possible to create their own islands, in that sea, of other-worldly, God-oriented thought and practice.
• Try to remember that all real Christian work is local ─ right here and now, between myself and God and my neighbor.
• Do you have a notebook for taking down quotes from Holy Fathers in your reading? Do you always have a book of Holy Fathers that you are reading and can turn to in a moment of gloom? Start now ─ this is essential!
• Now one cannot be a half-hearted Christian, but only entirely or not at all.
Deacon-monk Makarios Ivanovo Russia
from the blog of Fr. Lawrence Williams †2010
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2008
Vladika Andrew: Please Forgive Me !!!
For too long I have not pushed these buttons. It will be two years on September 2(n.s.). While digging around in things that perhaps I should not have been digging in I ran across this ever-memorable article. It describes an account rarely found in American Orthodox Circles. When I realized that it had been 10 years since this was last shared with the public my heart sunk with a sudden "thud"! It has been 80 days since the 30th Anniversary of the repose of a Holy One of our own time and who has even taken notice of it? It surely was not me. My head was in the clouds as I zipped to and fro in my self-important religiosity. While only Orthodox Christianity can have "Spiritual Religiosity" due to the incarnation of God the WORD this is not to say that an individual (Me, Myself and I) cannot hide behind an "Non-Spiritual Religiosity." Whatever my intent ... I know one thing: I was not thinking of Father Adrian (Later to become our Beloved Archbishop Andrew). 30 Years! Thirty Years!
T H I R T Y - Y E A R S! Oh! How Low Orthodox Christianity Has Fallen In Only Thirty Years! Oh Vladika Andrew, Please Pray For Me. You have attained "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" Ephesians 4:13. May this humble effort to remember you be pleasing to Christ Our True God. AMEN!
DISCIPLE OF THE OPTINA ELDERS
(Later Archbishop Andrew Rymarenko)
COMMEMORATING THE 20TH
ANNIVERSARY OF HIS REPOSE
By Father Herman
By Father Herman
Excerpts from the forthcoming book of the St. Herman Brotherhood
[Apparently the book was not forthcoming, at least not in English... ~jh]
AMERICA has seen a number of outstanding Orthodox pastors who, because of their dedication to the promotion of the strictly traditional inheritance bequeathed to them by Holy Russia, were not accepted by today's Orthodox modernists, whose main concern has been to adjust Orthodoxy to the ways and fashions of our contemporary post-Christian society. For this reason Archbishop Andrew remained obscure to present-day ecclesiastical leaders and those within their sphere of influence. And due to the fact that Orthodox Christians are not wise in the ways of this world, they have not promoted their great leaders, who during their lifetime did have a great influence, but only upon those who were of one mind with them. Thus, historically, men like Archbishop Andrew are doomed to fade away.
But what about the young generation that is not at home in the modern world, and that depends for its survival upon the passing on of tradition? These men and women need spiritual heroes for their own times. Therefore, by making these heroes available to them, by looking into that which moved them, not only are the young seekers enriched, but new life is also breathed into the memory of these spiritual giants.
We present here some short excerpts from the forthcoming book, Fr. Adrian: Disciple of the Optina Elders, portions of which appeared in Russky Palomnik (Russian Pilgrim) no. 18.
I. THE LIGHT OF TABOR
One time, having concluded my regular visit to my elder [Fr. Adrian], I decided to stay for Sunday Vespers, since after the service he would come out to the ambo with an open book of St. Theophan the Recluse and, standing there, gesturing with his arms, would give a talk on some chapter or other. For the most part it would be from his favorite book, Blessed are the Undefiled, St. Theophan's commentary on the 118th Psalm.* He would explain this book by chapter every Sunday evening. He was usually quite animated, and I always tried to take in as much as possible. This Sunday was especially interesting, since he was speaking about Invisible Light and the Light of Tabor.
I stood in the middle of the church and attended with thirst to his every word, since his discourse was usually about the philosophical-psychological perception of spiritual life. I looked at him, admiring his swiftly galloping, profound thoughts and suddenly I began to suspect that, speaking about Uncreated Light, he was speaking as if he himself had seen it, and was describing it, not theoretically, but obviously from personal experience. He was not just opening it up a little or hinting, but was speaking openly, revealing Divine mysteries before all the people. I marveled in spirit and did not believe my ears. Is it possible, I thought, that I alone understand this and the others are not excited by such a revelation? But my elder, as if seeing my confusion, my animated interest, was looking directly at me and, as if addressing his narrative to me personally, not paying attention to the others in the church, continued. I was embarrassed and glanced back as if to check myself—was I understanding like the others what mysteries he was revealing?
And oh, the horror! Behind me were standing very few people—and they were not listening to him, and were even yawning, opening their mouths wide and stretching themselves. Fr. Adrian continued, not confused by anything. Now I understood in an instant—not everyone hears, as is said in the Gospel: He who hath ears to hear, let him hear. But here there was no interest to hear! I froze—then moved forward, and always remembered that such mysteries are obviously not given to all to hear. Fr. Adrian continued to cast forth the pearls he had spiritually accumulated for years, and I went up closer to the iconostasis and listened to him—with fear. And with such fear that I did not dare afterwards to question him plainly. So I departed in a state of spiritual terror, clearly recalling St. Seraphim's Conversation with Motovilov.
I later asked Fr. Adrian to elucidate it for me, but nothing ever came of this.
The years passed an an occasion came for me to visit him again, twelve years later. He was already quite old, but received me with love, lying on his bed in the same small pink room in which he had first confessed me in 1954, and in which I had often prayed with him subsequently. His health was very poor. This was four years before his repose. I was not able to speak with him about much, and left with hope for the following day. The next day he received me with his former love. He was on his feet; he walked about, seated me in the same armchair on which I had first sat with him, and said, "Well, now I'm yours. What shall I tell you? Tell me everything! I'm very happy to see you." And so on.
Here I asked him whether he had ever seen the Light of Tabor, as he had said from the ambo before the indifference of his listeners. And he related to me, concealing nothing, how on one of his trips to Kholmishche he was with Elder Nektary on the preparatory Sunday of the Last Judgment, before Great Lent. Bolshevism was raging then; the foundations of Holy Russia were falling to pieces and people were perishing from fear and confusion. He too was then in a terrible situation, not knowing how to be a priest at a time of open, fierce persecution against Christianity. He was in need of encouragement and was unable to think about the well-being of church affairs. But it was precisely this which Elder Nektary was occupied with—he was walking around the rooms, gently smiling to himself mysteriously. Then he told Fr. Adrian to prepare himself for Confession, to read the Holy Gospel that was lying right there on a tall analogion. He ordered him to read aloud, while he himself withdrew behind the half-open door into the cell next door. The Elder was dressed, as always, in a warm, indoor podrasnik, with soft slippers on his feet. He moved away with tiny elderly steps.
Here is how Fr. Adrian himself related it to me:
"Behind the half-closed door I hear his shuffling, as he walked back and forth through the room. Then his footsteps stopped. I finished reading and glanced at the Elder behind the door and cried out! The Elder was all aflame; he was surrounded by a radiance of bright violet light a foot wide! As soon as I cried out everything instantaneously ceased. Obviously the Elder had been in a prayerful state when the Gospel was being read. This supernatural manifestation was given to me to see with my naked eyes so as to strengthen me in the impending trials which the Elder was preparing to lay upon me."
These trials consisted in Fr. Adrian's being sent to a certain village and, not knowing the situation there at all, helping to battle for the position of the Orthodox, as opposed to that of the renovationists. In the midst of all this there lay in store for him coming down with typhus, riding in an open sleigh during a freeze for an entire night, and holding an election in the village he had gone to in order to make the guilty parties repent. And when he returned safely to the Elder after having gone through an enormous number of ordeals, the latter was manifest as one having the authority of a bishop and directing the affairs of the diocese in the absence of the bishop, who had been arrested. The disturbance had been successfully stopped by this! Fr. Adrian had done all this without at all knowing what was going on—he was as it were a lever at the Elder's command, at his holy obedience.
The manifestation of the Light of Tabor was for him a confirmation that there exists another, spiritual world, which opens slightly to those who love and fear God. This was a vision that was like a reflection of the Lord's Transfiguration, about which St. Theophan speaks.
All of this and much more was related to me by Fr. Adrian, who was then already a bishop. He gave me his photograph, an epitrachelion and cuffs as gifts, and said farewell to me—forever. When saying good-bye to me he went out with me to the porch of his little white house and at that moment all the bells rang for the Vigil.
I bowed to him. He embraced me and kissed me, and with an unforgettable smile gave me me some kind and prophetic parting words. Like old times I was enkindled with the ardor of inspiration—and this was my last encounter with him on earth.
2. THE LAST DAY
The last day of the life of Archbishop Andrew was the Feast of the Holy Leaders of the Apostles, Peter and Paul. It was hot summer weather. He received Communion as usual, on all Sundays and feast-days, with reverence. He was very weak, and lay there surrounded by people devoted to him, anticipating the long-awaited hour.
Every day he would listen to three Akathists—the first, to the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, was read by Mother Nona; one to St. Nicholas was read at noon, and one to St. Seraphim in the evening. All the services were transmitted to him from the church by microphone, so that he was with everyone in spirit all the time.
In the evening, towards the end of Matins, my elder was praying especially intensely to the Mother of God, taking out a small icon which his mother had given him and which he always had with him. That day he was praying before it especially strongly and for a long time, as if he were gathering all his strength. This was sensed by all.
Suddenly he began to hemorrhage. His son Sergius and Fr. Alexander (Kiselev) jumped up. Brother Michael was at that time reading the Akathist to the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. Then the Archbishop began to summon everyone in order to say farewell to all and give them his last testament, repeating that he was dying and asking everyone's prayers for him. He began, especially forcefully, to cry out, "Most Holy Theotokos, save me!"—and he uttered other prayers as well. When he broke out in a cold sweat he cried out, "I'm dead!" and instantly grew pale and became white as snow.
Fr. Alexander ran to the adjoining room to grab the epitrachelion, the very one under which Elder Nektary had died when Fr. Adrian was holding it fifty years earlier, but the Archbishop had already left our world. It was on this very day, of Sts. Peter and Paul, that he had walked into Optina Monastery for the first time, and now he was entering the other world.
It was half an hour before midnight.
The bells were rung and all the nuns in black silhouette gathered for prayer and quietly began to sing the 90th Psalm to begin the Pannikhida.
Thus ended the apostolic life of the contemporary disciple of Christ, Andrew.
3. MIRACULOUS MANIFESTATIONS
From a letter of Nun Maria (Stakhovich)
"I was especially overwhelmed by the death of our Archbishop, although we expected it. The 'heart' of our monastery has stopped beating. There are no more like him and we won't find any. The forty days have already gone by… Every day after the Liturgy there was a Pannikhida at the grave; there were always a lot of people.
"This death was marked by certain special manifestations.
"On the eve of the burial, after services in the evening, we were told from the ambo (the church was packed with people) that on the day of his death the children in the summer camp, aged 8 to 15, saw a cross made of clouds in the sky; then it took on the features of a face, and the children recognized it as that of Archbishop Andrew. The face changed into an angel flying upwards.
"From our parish the 15-year-old daughter of Dr. Zarudsky saw it. Fr. Alexander Kiselev questioned each of these children separately. All the children corroborated one and the same thing, which convinces one that this was no fantasy.
"On the day of the burial, after the funeral, Fr. John Legky repeated all this once again from the ambo. If this interests you, you can ask Fr. Alexander Kiselev. His wife, Galina, whom I've known since the last year of high school, later repeated to me what I've written.
"Second: it was many years ago, right after Fr. Adrian's consecration as a bishop. A letter came from a certain Vasilieva. I have her commemoration book here with me—her address is in Calistoga, California. What happened was this. After his consecration as a bishop a letter came to the office from this Vasilieva. Her parents had remained in Russia. As I recall, they were exiled, but their daughter, who had left for America, did not know about their fate. She had a dream: she saw a new peasant cottage, and her mother was sitting in the kitchen; a trap door into the basement was visible, and it was dark there. I don't remember exactly whether her mother told her or whether she understood it herself, but her father was in this basement. She looked and saw that although the cottage was a new one, there was no glass in the windows. She said to her mother, 'Why isn't there any glass?' 'Only Bishop Andrew can do that,' her mother replied. The daughter awoke and began to think that it was going very badly with her parents. It appeared that her father had already died and that it was necessary to pray for their souls. She had to find this Bishop Andrew.
"No matter where she looked—even in various countries—there was in fact no bishop anywhere by the name of Andrew. Thus she had to abandon her intention. I don't remember exactly whether a year or two went by, but soon after his consecration to the episcopate the letter came from her asking him to do a funeral in absentia, and containing a detailed account of her dream.
"Her request was fulfilled. Archbishop Andrew served their funeral in absentia and sent her the charred fragments of the scroll of absolution and a bit of earth. I was assisting at the time. I asked the office to find this letter, but it was difficult for the Bishop to search it out; people wrote so many letters that boxes of them had accumulated."
Through the prayers of the ever-memorable Archbishop Andrew,
Lord, have mercy on us. Amen.
Lord, have mercy on us. Amen.
Reprinted from The Orthodox Word
Vol. 34, No. 6 (20) Nov.—Dec., 1998
* St. Theophan's Commentary on Psalm 118 has since been published by SJKP and may still be available.
Fr. Serpahim Rose, "Letter to a spiritual Seeker,"
The Orthodox Word, nos. 187-88 , p. 119.
Fr. Seraphim wrote the following letter towards the end of his lift, to a young man whom he heard was interested in the writings of the French metaphysician Rene Guenon.
.... It so happens that Rene Guenon was the chief influence in the formation of my own intellectual outlook (quite apart from the question of Orthodox Christianity). I read and studied with eagerness all his books that I could get a hold of; through his influence I studied ·the ancient Chinese language and resolved to do for the Chinese tradition what he had done for the Hindu; I was even able to meet and study with a genuine representative of the Chinese tradition and understood full well what he means by the difference between such authentic teachers and the mere "professors" who teach in the universities.
It was Rene Guenon who taught me to seek and love the Truth above all else, and to be unsatisfied with anything else; this is what finally brought me to the Orthodox Church. Perhaps a word of my experience will be of help for you to know.
For years in my studies I was satisfied with being "above all traditions" but somehow faithful to them; I only went deeper into the Chinese tradition because no one had presented it in the West from a fully traditional point of view. When I visited an Orthodox Church, it was only in order to view another "tradition"-knowing that Guenon (and one of his disciples) had described Orthodoxy as the most authentic of the Christian traditions.
However, when I entered an Orthodox Church for the first time (a Russian Church in San Francisco), something happened to me that I had not experienced in any Buddhist or other Eastern temple; something in my heart said that this is "home," that all my search was over. I didn't really know what.. this meant, because the service was quite strange to me, and in a foreign language. I began to attend Orthodox services more frequently, gradually learning its language and customs, but still keeping all my basic Guenonion ideas about all the authentic spiritual traditions.
With my exposure to Orthodoxy and to Orthodox people, however, a new idea began to enter my awareness: that truth was not just an abstract idea, sought and known by the mind, but was something personal-even a Person-sought and loved by the heart. And that is how I met Christ. I am now grateful that my approach to Orthodoxy took several years and had nothing of emotional excitement about it-that was Guenon's influence again, and it helped me to go deeper into Orthodoxy without the ups and downs that some converts encounter when they arc not too ready for something as deep as Orthodoxy. My entrance into the Orthodox Church occurred at the very time I left the academic world and gave up the attempt to communicate the Chinese tradition to the Western world. My Chinese teacher also left San Francisco shortly before this-my only real contact with the Chinese tradition - and in Guenonian fashion he disappeared utterly, leaving no address. I remember him fondly, but after becoming Orthodox I saw how limited was his teaching: the Chinese spiritual teaching, he said, would disappear entirely from the world if Communism endures another ten or twenty years in China. So fragile was this tradition-but the Orthodox Christianity I had found would survive everything and endure to the end of the world-because it was not merely handed down from generation to generation, as all traditions are; but was at the same time given from God to
I look back fondly now on Rene Guenon as my first real instructor in Truth, and I only pray that you will take what is good from him and not let his limitations chain you. Even psychologically, "Eastern wisdom" is not for us who are flesh and blood of the West; Orthodox Christianity is clearly the tradition that was given us-and it can be clearly seen in the Western Europe of the first ten centuries, before the falling away of Rome from Orthodoxy. But it also happens that Orthodoxy is not merely a "tradition" like any other, a "handing down" of spiritual wisdom from the past; it is God's Truth here and now-it gives us immediate contact with God such as no other tradition can do. There are many truths in the other traditions, both those handed down from a past when men were closer to God, and those discovered by gifted men in the reaches of the mind;' but the full Truth is only in Christianity, God's revelation of Himself to mankind. I will take only one example: there are teachings on spiritual deception in other traditions, but none so thoroughly refined as those taught by the Orthodox Holy Fathers; and more importantly, these deceptions of the evil one and our fallen nature are so omnipresent and so thorough that no one could escape them unless the loving God revealed by Christianity were close at hand to deliver us from them. Similarly: Hindu tradition teaches many true things about the end of the Kali Yuga; but one who merely knows these truths in the mind will be helpless to resist the temptations of those times, and many who recognize the Antichrist (Chalmakubi) when he comes will nonetheless worship him - only the power of Christ given to the heart will have strength to resist him.
It is my prayer for you that God will open your heart, and you yourself will do what you can to meet Him. You will find there happiness you never dreamed possible before; your heart will join your head in recognizing the true God, and no real truth you have ever known will be lost. May God grant it! Feel free to write whatever is in your mind or heart.Fr. Seraphim
Speaking the Truth in Love
Orthodox America; Issue 6; Vol. I, No. 7 January 1981
What a sad and confused time it is in which we live! Those who are striving to be faithful to the true Christianity handed down to our latter times from our Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles –the true Orthodox Christianity– cannot help but notice the many ways in which Christians today are falling away from the norms and safeguards of true Christianity which the Church has placed for our protection against the seductive temptations of this world which lies in evil. Christians are called to be the salt of the earth; but if this salt loses the savor of true Christian life, it is therefore good for nothing but to be east out and to be trodden under foot of men (Matt. 5:13). This process of Christians losing the savor of Christianity naturally results in what St. Paul calls the “apostasy” – the “falling away” from Christ that is one of the chief signs of the nearness of Antichrist (II Thes. 2:3).
We must therefore be aware of our calling as Orthodox Christians. We must know that we belong to the one Church which Christ established on earth; that through it alone we obtain the grace which we must have to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12); that nothing else is more precious in our lives, and that we must sacrifice everything else in order to remain in the grace of Christ in His Holy Church; that we can offer nothing better to our fellow men than that they come and see (John l:46) the life in Christ which is offered in His Church. Especially in our times, when the Church exists in the world like an island in the midst of apostasy and unbelief, each Orthodox Christian is called to be a missionary of the true Faith.
But what kind of missionary? It is possible today to be so preoccupied with the apostasy surrounding one that one becomes simply a boaster in his own righteousness: I am not as other men are…. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess (Luke 18:11-12). This is the phariseeism which our Lord condemns. People who are thirsting for the life and truth of Christianity cannot help but reject such phariseeism. True Christianity has no room for such vain boasting, nor for merely negative condemnation of the errors of others. If we wish to lead men to the living water of Christ’s grace, and indeed if we wish to save our own souls, our righteousness must exceed that of the pharisees (Matt. 5:20)–it must be of a different kind entirely: not a dry “correctness” in which we take pride, but a living reflection of the life of grace which Christ has bestowed on us.
We shall be known as the disciples of Christ if we have love (John 13:35). This is the chief distinguishing mark of the Christian, as a disciple of the God Who is Love (I John 4:8)/
We must speak the truth to those who thirst-for, we must tell men confused by the myriad of opinions and sects that claim the name of Christian that there is a true Christianity, handed down in an unbroken line from Christ and His Apostles to our times. But we must do this in such a loving and positive way that those who listen to our words will hear the message of the heart which Holy Orthodoxy conveys. Speaking the truth in love is a part of our maturing in Christ, that we May grow up into Him in all things and come unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:15, 13). It is our faith which worketh by love (Gal. 5:6) that is the test of our Christianity and at the same time our witness to that remnant of the last humanity that thirsts for this kind of Christianity.
St. Herman of Alaska Monastery
30 March 2020
A Radio Interview With Hieromonk Seraphim Rose
Recorded at the St. Herman of Alaska Monastery on November 4, 1981.
The interviewer, Fr. John Ocana, was at that time hosting a weekly radio show on Orthodox Christianity.
FJ: Good morning. This is Fr. John Ocana of the Antiochian Orthodox Church of the Redeemer in Los Altos, California. (1) Last week we were speaking about St. Seraphim of Sarov and the ascetic life in the Orthodox Church. My guest this morning is Hieromonk Seraphim of the St. Herman of Alaska Monastery in Platina, California. Good morning, Father.
FS: Good morning, Father.
FJ: For the benefit of our radio listeners: Fr. Seraphim is a hieromonk, and perhaps many of you are not familiar with this term. Father, perhaps you can explain to us: What is the meaning of a hieromonk? What does a hieromonk do?
FS: A hieromonk is simply a monk who also happens to be a priest, and his function is the function of a priest. In the monastic community, he, in alternation with the other priests of the community, serves the Liturgy. At times, as is the case in our monastery, he might serve Liturgy for mission parishes outside of the monastery.
FJ: We are speaking about – as I said before – the ascetic life. Perhaps you can explain to our radio audience some of the aspects of the ascetic life and what is the meaning of this life-style for our world today. Perhaps you can help our radio listeners to understand what is this ascetic life? What do you actually do? What is your goal in life as a hieromonk?
FS: Perhaps a more understandable term tan ascetic might be simply the life of struggle. The monastic life is the life of Christian struggle. There are many forms in which a Christian can struggle, and the monastic life is one of these. Historically, the earliest age of the Church, during the first three centuries, was the age of martyrdom. Those Christians who went willingly to suffering and death for the sake of their faith in Christ, and who refused to bow down to the pagan idols, were performing a struggle. Later on, when the Church became officially recognized and therefore more subject to being influenced by the world, there were men and women who went away from the world into the deserts, and that was the beginning of what we know now as the monastic life.
FJ: I know that the monastic life and the monastic tradition is part of the Orthodox tradition. I was thinking this morning about the impact of the ascetic life on the life of the Church, and the life of us as individual Christians. What do you feel are some of the benefits that the Christian community derives from having people like yourself in the monastic life? What do we receive from that, if I can put it in those terms?
FS: Well, first of all I would say that the monk is really no different from other Christians, in the sense of being a struggler, because Christianity is not possible without struggle. We receive from our Lord Jesus Christ salvation. And the, as St. Paul says, it is required for each one to work out [his] salvation with fear and trembling. (2) Therefore, each Christian must be a struggler in order to receive, to appropriate to himself, this salvation which is given to us by Jesus Christ. And the monk is simply one who has committed himself to a particular way of life which is directly bound up with this kind of struggle.
FJ: Can you share with us some of the principles of the ascetic life? What are some of the guidelines that you follow, which help you to live this way of life? And what precisely is the goal? What are you trying to achieve in this way of living?
FS: Well, the monastic, whether male or female, is leading a life which, to the best of our ability, is one of regularity. This involves a definite discipline of attendance at Church services, of performing a rule of prayer, of nourishing our minds and hearts with the word of God and the writings of the Holy Fathers. And this is the same kind of disciplined life which Orthodox Christians in the world also live, according to their ability – or should be living. One can say that if the monastic of our times has something to show to the rest of the Christains, it is this showing forth of the disciplined life to which everyone is called according to their strength, and which might inspire them when they see a particular class of people who are devoting themselves entirely to this.
FJ: I would like to be a little bit more specific. How do you, as an Orthodox Christian, put on Christ? (3) How is this done within your way of life? Perhaps you can share with us some of the guiding principles, or some of the sayings of the Fathers of the Church, that help you to understand and to live this life more fully.
FS: Well, in the monastic context, we make a point of first of all of putting off our own will, which means submission to the authority of spiritual fathers, to the abbot. The Christian in the world has the same concept of obedience – though not in such a direct form – because he must be obedient to Christ, to the Church, to the authority of the Church. So this is something which happens in the life of everyone, but the monastic has this particular form of very strict obedience to the abbot or his spiritual father. The particular benefit which a monk or nun derives from obedience is directly related to the quality of his spiritual life.
We can see in the example of the Saint you talked about last week, St, Seraphim of Sarov, that he – living in the desert, in the wilderness – could have acquired great spiritual benefit perhaps even without someone over him to whom he had to be submissive; but unless his Christian life had been tested by this particular virtue of obedience, we might not have been quite so certain as to what state he was in. For example, it happened that some of the brothers in the monastery complained that he was not coming to the services like the other monks (he was living outside the monastery in a cell in the wilderness), that he was living a life too remote from them, that he was perhaps falling into the danger of trusting himself, and therefore the brethern asked the abbot to force him to come to the monastery. The abbot did this: he sent word that he was to come to the Liturgy to receive Communion, and so that the brethern would not be scandalized. St. Seraphim, hearing this, instantly obeyed. He came without saying a word, because he was at that time living a life of total silence; he came in obedience to the monastery and in accordance with the will of the abbot, and acted just like the other brothers. Thereby he showed that he had humility; because , if he were unwillingly to oney, it would mean that there was pride in him.
For people living in the world this might seem an advanced thing to understand, but it is not so at all, because this virtue of humility is basic to all the other Christian virtues. It is revealed in one's willingness not to trust oneself, but rather submit to the will of one's superior.
FJ: That's an interesting concept and an interesting aspect of the Christian life. Perhaps you can share with us a few more of the virtues that a monk develops in this form of life, that we as Christians must also develop.
FS: Well, closely bound up with this idea of obedience is this idea of not trusting oneself, not trusting one's opinions. This does not mean that one is in a state of total confusion. It means that there is somewhere in oneself a humility that refuses to take one's own opinions as the ultimate law. Of course, in the Orthodox Church we have the whole hierarchy and discipline of the Church, which gives to us the basic belief and way of life that we have. Therefore, our life is constantly being tested against this measuring stick.
It so happens that, in the Western world especially, the habit of placing to much trust in one's own opinions, in one's own way of thinking, has led to the formation of many sects, each one of which promotes simply the personal opinion of the person who founded it.
FJ: We certainly see within many churches in the Western world a division according to various denominational lines, and I know that the Orthodox Church does not consider itself a denomination. Perhaps you can share with us some thoughts as to why the Orthodox Church does not consider itself just one more denomination among other Christian groups.
FS: Well, historically one can trace back from the present-day Orthodox Church and go back all the way to the Apostles. One can trace the teaching of the present-day Orthodox Church and go all the way back through the Holy Fathers of the Church and the Ecumenical Councils, again to the Apostles. And in fact, one can even trace such things as the Church vestments and services back through the earlier Church to the fourth century and even beyond that. This is a very persuasive thing. For example, the Orthodox Church in Uganda was formed, not by missionaries coming from outside, but by two Anglican seminarians, who, investigating the history of the Church, found that historically the Orthodox Church was the only one which was tied to and came down in a straight succession without change from the age of the Apostles.
FJ: One of the things that we spoke about earlier, Father, was prayer, and the role that prayer has in [the] life of a monk. Could you speak a little about this? We also spoke about your praying for the world. I found this very interesting. Can you share some of those thoughts with your audience?
FS: Yes, of course. A monk is free to pray more than the ordinary layman is able to, because the whole monastic life is centered around the Church services, which we have in the morning, in the evening, and at various times of the day. Therefore, he prays with the cycle of the Church's services. And a special part of his prayers is the prayer, both in Church and in his own cell, for others. In the world, people are not usually so free to devote time to praying for others; but the monastic has the opportunity to devote himself to this kind of prayer. In his prayer in the desert, away from the ways of the world, he can call to mind those who are in various conditions of suffering, sorrow, or struggle. Often those people in the world have no one to have sympathy on them in their struggles. The monastic is one who can do this. We receive mail from people all over the world telling about their needs and their struggles, and therefore we take this obligation upon ourselves of praying for them, asking God's mercy upon all those who are in conditions of need throughout the world.
FJ: I can see that our time is just about up. Father, I'd like you to share with our radio audience some last thoughts that you might have for them this morning.
FS: I would encourage people to become acquainted with the monastic tradition of the past, because this is not so much a special way of life as it is a way of preserving true Christianity in the midst of the temptations which inevitably come from the world. If one reads, for example, the Life of a struggler like St. Seraphim in more modern times, or the Lives of the saints of the desert in the early centuries of Christianity, one finds there a simplicity and a warmth, and a basic Christianity that is so easily clouded over by the influence of the world upon us. Therefore, the reading of such texts as the Lives and the sayings of the Desert Fathers is something that can, I think, open up and strengthen true Christianity in people today.
FJ: Father, I would like to thank you very, very much for being with us this morning.
FS: Thank you.
Special thanks to Fr. John Ocana for granting permission to print this interview, and to Fr. Paul Baba, now the priest of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cedar Rapids, who recorded it and provided us with the tape recording.
1. At the time of publication of this edition (2001) he was pastor of St. Herman of Alaska Church in Sunnyvale, California, of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
2. Philipians 2:12
3. Galatians 3:27
2. Philipians 2:12
3. Galatians 3:27
25 March 2020
This was written before Fr. Seraphim's death, and we can be certain it was reviewed by Fr. Seraphim before it was first published in Nikodemos in 1978. Later it was revised. This below is the 1990 republishing of the original with minor editing by Fr. Gregory Williams SJKP. I made two notes, they are starred (*) and (**).
CHRISTIANITY OR THE PAPACY?
An Appeal to Roman Catholics
by Father (then Reader) Alexey Young
Someone has said that the Orthodox Church is like a mansion with countless different gates -- no two people seem to enter by the same one. I entered Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism in 1970. As a "cradle Catholic," I passed through a period of skepticism concerning religion when, as a young man, I forsook the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and lived a deeply sinful and irresponsible life for a period of years.
This was not because of any lack on the part of my Catholic parents who, by precept and example, had certainly given me more than they can ever know, or because the nuns in school had "failed" me. My agnosticism and reproachable style of life were purely self-willed.
There came a point when the emptiness of my life compelled me to start looking for God. Having been raised in a Catholic environment, I naturally turned back to that Church for guidance and strength. I returned to the Catholic sacraments, read spiritual books, went on "retreats," and visited monastics -- particularly contemplatives in enclosed orders. From the outside, it must have seemed like a routine adult conversion or "re-conversion."
In fact, I was not "reconverted" at all. At bottom there was a deep sense of dissatisfaction. I had returned to Catholicism in order to learn about spiritual life. By now, I was also a husband and a father, and was concerned about teaching my children true values. But this was shortly after the second Vatican Council, a time of great upheaval and strife within the Roman Church, when anything and everything were being emphasized BUT the things I needed in my life.
In 1966, I heard through the news media of the death of Blessed John Maximovitch, the Orthodox Archbishop of Western America and San Francisco. The stories I heard about his heroic ascetic struggles and wonder working moved me, and I decided to attend his funeral. I had been in Orthodox churches before, but only out of idle curiosity. Now, I was present at the funeral of a saintly hierarch because he had somehow "spoken" to me through the news reports about his holy life and death.
I was not converted to Orthodoxy on the spot, but I had a strong desire to know more about this archbishop's angel-like life. I read whatever I could find concerning him in English and was hungry for more. So I began reading lives of other Orthodox saints (and immediately was aware of how different they are from Roman Catholic "saints," though I did not then know why). I felt the strongest attraction towards these saints and couldn't forget them. It didn't take long to realize that I could better understand them if I knew more about their faith. I read several books about Orthodoxy -- some by writers who were Orthodox, others by Roman Catholics, and others who were just "objective scholars." It was here that I first came across the Orthodox belief that the Western or Latin church had separated itself from the Orthodox Church, and not the other way around -- as I had always been told. This was an amazing idea, hardly possible, and certainly not believable -- or was it? I decided to probe further.
I was born and raised during the "triumphal" years of the reign of Pius XII as pope. Deeply engraved on my mind from my first years in parochial school was an image of this white-clad and austere pontiff who was, according to our catechism book, the "Successor of St.Peter" and "Vicar of Christ on earth." I decided to see what I could find out about the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome in the writings of the pre-schism Church Fathers (both Eastern and Western), and in the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils which had been accepted by the Universal Church before the Schism of 1054 A.D.
What I discovered was nothing short of shocking to my Catholic mind. Far from finding a clear and established teaching about the supremacy of the Roman See, I found on the contrary considerable evidence that the Fathers knew no such teaching and that the bishops of Rome were, for the first 800 years, either silent on the subject (STRANGE, if they believed themselves to have universal authority over the Church!), or decisively REJECTED the idea of a supremacy for themselves. Subsequently, I learned about the origin of other Latin doctrines (such as the Filioque, purgatory, indulgences, the Immaculate Conception, etc.).
Long after I was "intellectually convinced" that Rome had been guilty of errors and innovations (I didn't think of them as heresies at that point), I still thought that the idea of the papacy was quite "reasonable," even if it wasn't of Apostolic origin. (This business of "reasonableness," by the way, is characteristic of the Catholic mentality -- the same "reasonableness" or "logic" had led to erroneous teachings about the Holy Trinity, life after death, and the Mother of God.) I was only being "pragmatic." I reasoned thus: the Church of Christ must preserve and teach the Truth to each generation she must know her own mind on all of these things and speak authoritatively. How better to do this than to have a locus for this teaching in the person of 'one' bishop? However, it was one thing to conclude that the papacy was somehow "right," and quite another to see it as a 'good' thing. This was rationalistic "double-think," but I didn't know it then.
What brought me through all of this to a knowledge of the truth was not book-learning and research, but the incomparable example of Orthodox saints. The burning attraction I had felt for them was love, not scholarly fascination. I wanted to understand them better in fact, I wanted to be like them. I realized that I loved them because they are Christ-like their Orthodox way of life is a constant revelation of Christ to the world of men. How could I imitate them if I didn't try to live their Faith?
When later I discovered these words by a modern Orthodox writer, I wished that I had found them during this time of searching.
"In order for one to understand the saints and fathers of the Church, it is not sufficient merely you read them. The saints spoke and wrote after having lived the mysteries of God. They personally experienced the mysteries. In order for one to understand them, he too must have progressed to a certain degree of initiation into the mysteries of God by personally tasting, smelling, and seeing. You can read the books of the saints and become very well versed in them with a 'cerebral' knowledge, without even minutely tasting that which the saints who wrote these books tasted through their personal experience. In order to understand the saints essentially, not intellectually, you must have the proper experiences for all that they say. You must have tasted, at least in part, the same things as they. You must have lived in the fervent environment of Orthodoxy. You must have grown in it ... A WHOLE NEW WORLD MUST BE BORN IN A WESTERNER'S HEART IN ORDER FOR HIM TO UNDERSTAND SOMETHING OF ORTHODOXY." (Dr. Alexander Kalomiros).
It was blessed Archbishop John -- the first Orthodox saint I had known -- who brought about my conversion as I knelt before his tomb on Great Saturday of 1970. Some weeks later, I stood with my family before a priest in order to be received into Orthodoxy. I was called upon to "renounce, now, with all thy heart, thine errors and false doctrines." This I did willingly. But the hardest words to utter were "I do" after this question: "Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief ... that a man, to wit, the bishop of Rome, can be the head of Christ's body, that is to say, of the whole Church?"
Someone not raised in the Church of Rome might well wonder why I, who had, after all, been truly and spiritually (not merely intellectually) converted to Orthodoxy, should at the last moment tremble at renouncing the Pope. Few Orthodox clergy realize in the least what a Roman Catholic has to go through before he becomes Orthodox. There is an internal conflict that comes from years of training he feels that he has left a familiar room and is stepping into a huge wilderness. He needs time and much patient understanding in order to make the necessary break with his past.
Pre-Vatican II Roman Catholics will have no difficulty at all in understanding my hesitation. Central to the faith of the Roman Catholic is his conviction that the true Church must rest upon the "barque of Peter," for no one not in obedience to the Pope can be saved -- and especially not someone who knowingly rejects the papacy. But since a Roman Catholic's faith is by definition built upon the idea of the papacy, it was essential that I renounce it once and for all, if I were going to be a true and honest Orthodox Christian. Thanks be to God, the moment I spoke the words of renunciation, all emotional ties with Rome were immediately severed. Not once during the succeeding years did I, or my wife, look back upon our years as Roman Catholics with an instant of regret or nostalgia.
I have gone to some length to describe the path I took from Rome to Orthodoxy, not because there was anything particularly special about it, but because it may be of help to some well-meaning people in the Roman Catholic Church who are today experiencing the same profound dissatisfaction through which I went, who are dismayed and shaken by the all but unbelievable changes in the church since Vatican II, and who are sick of being in that constant state of agitation and tension which distracts them from following Christ -- but who still hold on emotionally to the idea of the papacy. So deep-seated are the ties which bind traditional Roman Catholics to the pope that, in the face of intelligent evidence to the contrary, they continue to insist that they can save their souls if only they remain loyal and obedient at least to the "idea" of the papacy, if not to the actual person of the reigning pope.
The following essay will be disturbing to Roman Catholic readers. It contains some things that they already know, and much that will be new to them. Its purpose is three-fold: first, to witness to the faith which God gave to one unworthy former Roman Catholic second, to give an "Orthodox view" of developments in the Church of Rome -- developments to which no honest Catholic can turn a blind eye or deaf ear and third, to show sincere Roman Catholics that (as another has written), "in order to be 'truly' Catholic they must become Orthodox."
The 19th century Russian saint, John of Kronstadt, observed that Roman Catholicism had become a dead shell of Christianity, held together only by its outward discipline. When this discipline begins to crack, he said, the institution itself will collapse.
This was exactly prophetic of the events we are now witnessing. The spectacle of the Roman Catholic Church in disarray around the world and throughout her ranks is the sure result of this slow collapse in outward discipline. The sorry plight of today's Catholics is amazing to non-Catholics who remember the Roman triumphalism of previous years.
How did this slow collapse come about, and what does it mean for Roman Catholics -- indeed, for all of us?
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OLD-TIME RELIGION?
The Latin or Western Church was once part of the Universal Church of Christ. At the time of the Great Schism of 1054 A.D. she left the True Church. For a long time before this, Western Christians showed signs of an unhealthy emphasis on rationalism and logic -- which was alien to the spirit of Christianity. Such, for example, was the "logical" deduction that caused the Latins to introduce into the Nicene Creed the 'filioque' ("from the Son") clause, even though there was no justification for this in either Scripture or Tradition. Such, also was the steadly growing temporal power of the papacy -- directly contradicting the canons of the various Councils (which had heretofore been accepted by the Roman Patriarchate).
Before the Schism. the authority of the bishop of Rome consisted of rightful jurisdiction over all bishops in his see. The First Council of Nicaea (A. D. 325) accorded a primacy of "honor" to the bishop of Old Rome, not because Rome had been the seat of St. Peter, but "on account of her being the imperial capital" [Canon 28].
As Patriarch of Western Europe, this bishop had no more authority than that granted to any of the patriarchs in the Eastern section of the empire. It is little known, but as late as the 19th century many Roman Catholic bishops still understood the jurisdiction of the pope in the same way as the early Church. When Pius IX sought the official mantle of supremacy in all matters of faith and morals at the First Vatican Council (1870), Bishop Strossmayer rose and spoke these words:
"I do not find one single chapter, or one little verse in which Jesus Christ gives to St. Peter the mastery over the apostles, his fellow-workers ... The Apostle Paul makes no mention of the primacy of Peter in any of his letters directed to the various churches ... What has surprised me most, and what moreover is capable to demonstration, is the SILENCE OF ST. PETER HIMSELF!"
Bishop Strossmayer's view exactly agrees with the universal understanding of the early Church. He continued:
"The Councils of the first four centuries, while they recognized the high position which the bishop of Rome occupied in the Church on account of Rome, only accorded to him a pre-eminence of honor, never of power or of jurisdiction. In the passage, "Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build My Church," the Fathers never understood that the Church was built on Peter (super Petrum), but on the rock (super petram) of the Apostle's confession of faith in the Divinity of Christ."(*)
I stress that Strossmayer's words truly reflect the pre-Schism teaching of the Church of Christ, both East and West. Any Roman Catholic can check this out for himself -- both Strossmayer's comments and the teachings of the early fathers. Considerable information is available to those who sincerely wish to learn. It is NOT an "esoteric subject" that only theologians and historians can understand. To Roman Catholic readers I say: you owe it to yourselves, for the sake of your souls, to FIND OUT. If for some reason you cannot locate the information on your own, then write to one of the sources mentioned in this article.
One of the books which you should obtain and read in its entirety, and which is available in most larger libraries is 'The Commonitory' of the Western Church Father, St. Vincent of Lerins (+450). It is most readily found in Vol. XI of 'The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers' [Eerdmans Press], or in the 'Fathers of the Church' series of the Catholic University of America.
St. Vincent is writing against the innovations of his time. His object is to provide a general rule for distinguishing truth from heresy. He answers the question, "How are we to understand Scripture when so many [heretics] interpret it differently?" He replies that true Catholics are those who "hold the Faith which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all," and who "in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were held by our holy ancestors and fathers."
Under the heading "The Notes of a True Catholic" he says that "the true and genuine Catholic believes that, and that only, which he is sure the Catholic Church has held universally and from ancient times but that whatsoever new and unheard-of doctrine he shall find to have been furtively introduced by some one or other" he will reject.
(I should emphasize that many Church fathers use the term "Catholic" in their writings, but they do NOT mean ROMAN Catholic. They use the word in its original sense -- universal, all-inclusive and "whole" -- when speaking of the true Church of Christ. Thus, one of the earliest fathers, St. Ignatius of Antioch, says nothing of the pope, but does say: "Where Christ is, there is the Catholic Church where the bishop is [meaning any true bishop], there must the people be also.")
Most telling is that nowhere does St. Vincent say that the bishop of Rome is a "guide" in matters of faith, although he mentions the Roman see and quotes Pope Stephen as saying, "Let there be no innovation -- nothing but what has been handed down." When we see the post-Schism teaching about the "infallibility" of the bishop of Rome in matters of faith and morals, we cannot but wonder why St. Vincent did deem it important to say that one of the "notes" of a true Catholic is his submission to Rome.
Moreover, Roman Catholic scholars commonly admit that the doctrine of papal authority is of recent origin. To quote from the 'Catholic Dictionary' (printed under "imprimatur" in 1917) concerning the age of the early fathers: "We cannot expect many instances of the exercise of papal power at this time. Time was needed to develop [these] principles." "It would, of course, be a monstrous anachronism were we to attribute a belief in papal infallibility to anti-Nicene fathers. Our contention is simply that the modern doctrine of papal power is the 'logical' outcome of patristic principles." Finally: "Papal infallibility follows by 'logical consequence'...."
This illustrates another point, that in Roman Christianity one comes to a knowledge of the truth primarily by just 'thinking', by bringing all the rational powers of one's mind to a point of concentration on a given question or concept. There is no other prerequisite than that a person be reasonably intelligent and informed and prepared to do the job of thinking. A Thomas Aquinas or John Calvin might add to this thinking process a prayerful request for inspiration, but the foundation is essentially the same: It is human logic which guides the thinker. This has been for so many centuries the 'norm' that no one in Western Christendom supposes there is anything wrong with it, in spite of the fact that individuals starting with the same set of "facts" come to quite different conclusions. Therefore, it seems quite "logical" to some that there should be an infallible papacy, while to others it seems complete nonsense.
Contrast this with the Orthodox way to knowledge. The holy fathers and saints do not just "sit down and think." They first struggle with their sins and are purified. As a present-day Orthodox theologian, Fr. Nicholas Deputatov, has written: "The mysteries of our Faith are unknown and not understandable to those who are not repenting." After this, God enlightens them about the Truth. While the Orthodox fathers do not despise human reason (in fact, they have great respect for it), they also know that God's ways seem foolish to the wise of this world.
The point is that for Orthodox Christians the basis of true knowledge is not man, but God. It is no longer this way in the West, where Christendom has become too imbued with humanistic principles of the Renaissance that it makes man the measure of all things, adding God as an after-thought (if indeed He is "added" at all).
But I must say also that although Rome accepted and began to teach various novelties and heresies, she also preserved many basic Orthodox doctrines and outward forms (at least by comparison with later Protestants), albeit in a distorted way -- that is, until the Second Vatican Council.
However, among pre-Vatican II innovations is the doctrine of the "Immaculate Conception" promulgated by Pope Pius IX in 1858. Roman Catholics justified this new teaching by saying that it has 'always' been believed by the Church, although not officially "defined" as an article of faith. This is a curious claim in light of the fact that numerous post-Schism Roman Catholic teachers quite decisively rejected the notion that the Mother of God was "conceived without sin." One such who will be well known to traditional minded Roman Catholics is Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the medieval champions of the Mother of God, considered a saint by the Roman Catholics. Bernard wrote at length on the matter, but the following brief quotation may be of special interest:
"I am frightened now, seeing that certain of you have desired to change the condition of important matters, introducing a new festival unknown to the Church, unapproved by reason, unjustified by ancient tradition. Are we really more learned and more pious than our fathers? You will say, 'One must glorify the Mother of God as much as possible.' This is true but the glorification given to the Queen of Heaven demands discernment. This royal Virgin does not have need of false glorifications, a novelty which is the mother of imprudence, the sister of unbelief, and the daughter of light-mindedness" [Bernard, Epistle 174 quoted in 'The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God', Archbishop John Maximovitch, Platina, CA, 1978].
In spite of such innovations, prior to Vatican II the outward discipline of the Church of Rome was awesome. But once the revolutionary spirit began to shatter that iron-clad discipline, Rome started to reveal her inner self as never before, all in the name of legalistic obedience to the pope.
IN THE WAKE OF VATICAN II
In 1967 the official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, announced that "Liturgical reform has taken a notable step forward on the path of ecumenism. It has come closer to the liturgical forms of the Lutheran Church." Many applauded this development. A few were shocked.
Ten years later, the Roman Catholic Church was threatened with schism on both the right and the left: on the right, symbolized by the French traditionalist Archbishop Lefebvre, who did not want to be protestantized and on the left, by a host of modernist theologians who teach humanism and relativism, and wish to build a "new world order."
It is because of the reformers on the left that institutional Catholicism is collapsing. These far more numerous than the traditionalists, more outspoken, and clearly more influential in all areas of Catholic society. The tremendous tensions between the left and the right prompted the noted Roman Catholic writer and ex-Jesuit, Malachi Martin, to predict: "Well before the year 2000, there will no longer be a religious institution recognizable as the Roman Catholic Church of today."
Major changes in liturgy, theology and world view have caused a committee of Roman theologians to declare that their church is now in "a period of spiritual crisis that is without precedent."
This is because of what Malachi Martin calls the "de-churching of Christians":
"For almost twenty years now, the churches have been dedicating them selves predominantly, in some cases exclusively to issues of sociology, and politics. They have been led into deeper and deeper commitment to public action of a kind indistinguishable from the local political club. This commitment has changed the way they pray and worship and preach the Gospel revelation ... No one knows what will be left intact, or how long Christians of a later generation will have to struggle in order to regain that essential link with the Jesus of history, without whom Christianity becomes one huge, dead joke." Let us now examine some of these important changes and their meaning.
CHANGES IN LITURGY AND THEOLOGY
The primary liturgical act of Roman Catholicism is the Mass. Except in certain conservative religious orders, the concept of the Lord's Supper as part of a whole liturgical cycle (including Vespers and Matins) is now completely lost. A 30-minute Sunday Mass brings Roman Catholics together and teaches them of their faith.
For centuries, this Mass had been heard only in Latin, a language in which most lay Catholics were not fluent. Consequently, when Vatican II authorized vernacular Masses, changes in the prayers went unnoticed except by a few who pointed out that doctrine had been changed. For instance, the offering of praise to the Trinity was suppressed and, in addition, references to God became vague and deistic, calling to mind the "Delta" or Grand Architect of Freemasonry, rather than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The dogmatic title 'Mother of God' (in Greek Theotokos), so dear to Orthodox Christians, and also to Roman Catholics until recently, was suppressed. Other omissions appear to suppress the doctrine of the communion of saints, whose intercession is now rarely asked (such things being left to the "discretion" of the individual priest). Even the words of Our Lord, spoken at the Last Supper, were altered in the "canon" of this New Mass! Perhaps this is not surprising, when one remembers that a millenium ago the Roman Catholic Church considered it perfectly reasonable to insert the FILIOQUE clause into the Creed, thus altering the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and incurring the anathema of the Nicene Fathers who had forbidden any tampering with the Creed.
A true believer must be concerned about the TRUTH of his beliefs. Catholic traditionalists realize this. A true Christian is bound to know and confess the dogma of the Trinity. But if his beliefs about the Trinity are in error, HOW CAN HE KNOW GOD? Perhaps it is beyond hope that liberal Catholics could care one way or the other. But what about those who wish, with every fiber of their being, to be IN THE TRUTH?
Other changes in the prayers of the Mass are too numerous to mention here. But in general, the whole emphasis was shifted. As one horrified Catholic priest, James Wathen, observed: "Of its very nature, the 'New Mass' 'liberates' the 'children of God' that they might make a GAME out of worship ... intrinsic to the very idea of the 'New Mass' is that the PEOPLE are more important than Christ the Savior ... Is it not they who must be entertained, accommodated, and emoted over? In the incessantly repeated phrase, "The People of God," it is the PEOPLE who, in Marxist fashion are being acclaimed, not God ... THEY HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE PLACE OF GOD."
More and more priests are using the New Mass as a "setting" for incredible "events." To cite one recent example, the Socialist-Feminist (and pro-abortionist) leader Gloria Steinem accepted an invitation to speak in a Catholic Church in Minneapolis. (She reportedly boasted of the "momentary delight" she had "at the thought of defiling the altar.") One of the guests was a Methodist layman. He was so scandalized by Miss Steinem's remarks that he left in disgust, saying "They might as well invite Satan himself to preach at this church."
The old axiom LEX ORANDI, LEX CREDENDI (as we worship, so we believe) is certainly true. The de-sacralized New Mass lends itself to un-Christian ideas and behavior.
Roman Catholics have now almost completely lost the ascetic spirit. Whereas Orthodoxy still proclaims that the ESSENCE of Christianity is asceticism, and to this end gives Orthodox Christians strict fasting rules as a STANDARD for Christian life, Catholicism has almost completely abandoned any such idea. To take fasting before Communion as an example -- when I was a child in the Catholic Church, the faithful were required to fast from all food and drink from the midnight before. Later, this was changed to three hours ... and finally, in the wake of Vatican II, to one hour.
One Orthodox theologian says this about the Roman Catholic spirit of reform: "The papal idea, based on the corrupt modern principle of spiritual self-satisfaction, is either to give a special 'dispensation' from the standard... or else to change the standard itself so that the believer can fulfill it easily, and thereby obtain a sense of satisfaction from 'obeying the law.' This is precisely the difference between the Publican and the Pharisee: the Orthodox man feels himself constantly a sinner because he falls short the Church's exalted standard (in spirit if not in letter), whereas 'modern' man wishes to feel himself justified, without any twinge of conscience over falling short of the Church's standard" [Fr. Seraphim Rose].
In an "Open Appeal" to Paul VI, Archbishop Arrigo Pintonello of Italy stated: "The seminaries and the pontifical universities, as is well known, have become schools of immanentism, naturalism, and even Marxism and atheism and they are now infecting more than 90% of the clergy." Liturgical reform has spawned open attacks upon the very divinity of Jesus Christ. A Time cover story, "New Debate over Jesus' Divinity," summarized the "new" thinking:
The German theologian, Hans Kung, the most famous of the liberal theologians, now teaches that the dogmatic definitions of Christ's divine and human natures are OBSOLETE: they must be "transferred to the mental climate of our own time." Apparently the "mental climate of our own time" is Arian, for the Jesuit Piet Schoonenberg wishes to completely drop all reference to the two natures of Christ, and the Dominican Edward Schillebeeckx says that Jesus was only a human being who gradually grew "closer" to God. Others now speak of the Savior as "a man elected and sent by God."
CHANGES IN WORLD-VIEW
Pope Paul had asserted that "the thoughts of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung reflect Christian values." Archbishop Pintonello, in his appeal to the pope wrote: "The falsely ecumenical embrace gives credibility to the absurd 'discovery' of affinity and even identity between Christ and Marx." (But, as the Rev. Vincent Miceli says, this is not surprising, for "once the liturgy is humanized, Christ becomes the humanist 'par excellence', the liberator, the revolutionary, the Marxist ushering in the millenium He ceases to be the Divine Redeemer.")
Catholic traditionalists wonder why Paul VI received with all due honor Communist leaders from all over the world, yet would not give audiences to traditionalists. The answer is probably close to what Malachi Martin wrote in his recent book, 'The Final Conclave', in which he boldly predicted that the election of Paul's successor would be strongly influenced by Communists. Martin, who was for years a Vatican "insider," explains that Pope Paul and many of his Cardinals had abandoned hope that Western democracies can survive the coming onslaught of Communism (how wrong they were). Since they want to be on the "winning side," they were seeking a rapprochement with both existing Communist governments and left-wing movements in the West.
Reviewing Martin's book, a prominent American Catholic traditionalist, Walter Matt, speaks of this Marxist infiltration into his church and says that it is "not at all illusory": "the actual presence of some agents of Soviet Russia exists among the hierarchy of the Church." He believes that institutional Catholicism is being "pushed nearer to an abyss" by current Vatican policies. Elsewhere, Dr. Matt writes: "And meanwhile our spiritual shepherds either sleep or play the game of compromise and detente with heresy and sin."
SINCE PAUL VI
Shortly after 'The Final Conclave' was published, Paul VI died and was succeeded by Cardinal Luciana as Pope John Paul I. In spite of reports that Luciana was a "reactionary," there were indictions that this "quietly genial man" was not all he seemed. He was ready to continue with the program of reforms launched by the Vatican Council.
In this country, frank Orthodox reaction to John Paul may be summarized by this brief item from a Serbian Orthodox Newspaper: "John Paul I will be remembered in the Orthodox world because during a visit to this pope and while in his study, Archbishop Nikodim(**) of Leningrad died, the biggest 'spy' in 'cassock' of the Soviet Union, and an officer of the Soviet Secret Police (KGB). Nikodim had been identified by KGB defectors to the West as a Major- General in the First Chief Directorate of the KGB. For reasons perhaps best known to Nikodim and John-Paul, this Soviet agent was reportedly 'moved to tears' during the pope's inaugural Mass."
John Paul's successor, Cardinal Wojtyla of Poland, the youngest pope in centuries and the first non-Italian since 1523, has proved to be another "crowd-pleaser." Like his predecessor, John Paul II is said to want to continue the changes of Vatican II.
THE CHURCH OR THE WORLD
It is shocking for Roman Catholic lay people to learn how pervasively wordly is the spirit of their church to see the utter lack of Gospel simplicity in the speeches of their leaders. An English Catholic, writing to a newspaper, said it well: "We are all sick to death of socialists and progressives alike with their reforming ideas... Indeed, a stranger looking into a Roman Catholic church today would imagine he was in a Protestant Reformed church... It is indeed something to thank God that the Eastern Orthodox Churches have refused to change anything and have stuck to the old liturgies."
Michael Davies, an English traditionalist, says that "during a time of general apostasy, Christians who remain faithful to their traditional Faith may have to worship outside the official churches... in order not to compromise their traditional Faith."
In order to achieve its ungodly ends, the revolutionary spirit in the Vatican makes full use of the Church of Rome's legalism and obsession for what is fashionable and "relevant," Michael Davies makes this very clear: "Those who had initiated the revolution (in the Catholic Church) were only too well aware of the fact that, provided their innovations could be imposed as orders from above, they could be expect to encounter very little effective opposition from priests and religious, and this meant virtually no opposition at all. The prevailing attitude was that the role of the laity was to follow whatever lead the clergy gave them -- and only too often in the history of the Church the lead given by the clergy, the higher clergy in particular, has been to heresy and apostasy... [Whereas] upholding the faith does not consist simply of behaving as an automaton programmed to carry out any and every clerical command... [Progressives think of ordinary believers] as 'a herd' which is 'straying apathetically behind' and is difficult to love. The ordinary believer is 'a superstitious religious caterpillar.'"
The Rev. Mr. Wathen is appalled at the "servility" with which Catholics have accepted the changes in liturgy, theology and policy. He exclaims: "this truly is what our enemies may well describe as 'popery' in the authentic sense of the word! As if our religion were nothing more than the dumb and servile fulfillment of the pope's mere wishes, totally unrelated to morality...or even plain common sense."
But what can such otherwise astute observers as Davies and Wathen expect, when pope after pope emphasizes the "power" he holds as "Vicar of Christ"? Even John-Paul II lost no time in stressing the "discipline" of the clergy and the "obedience" of the laity. The Vatican Council may have wrought havoc by opening the door to countless new heresies, but it did not fail to restate papal supremacy when it said: "All this teaching about the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible teaching authority, this sacred Synod again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful" [Article 18 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church].
Wathen says that those Catholics who have accepted compromise and heresy "have done so under the mistaken notion that its introduction was 'legal', or at least apparently so, and therefore its acceptance was both permissible and necessary." This legalism IS of course what the Western Christians have inherited from the Schism of 1054, when the Latins broke away from the Orthodox Church.
Quite a number of traditionalists have begun to see the trap into which they have been led by legalism. The question of obedience torments them day and night. They anguish endlessly over the fact that, as Matt puts it, "liberal Catholics, neo-modernists, Marxists, etc, HAVE NOT BEEN DISCIPLINED. They have NOT been removed from their positions of power and influence" by those in 'legitimate authority'.
TO RESCUE A SINKING SHIP
So vast is the panic in the Roman Church that bishops and pastors are now appealing to their faithful on purely emotional grounds. I've heard a first-hand account of a sermon delivered in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. Talking about the present confusion, the priest told his people that they must "stick with the pope no matter what -- for if they do this, they "will be saved," echoing Boniface VIII in his Bull, 'Unam Sanctum' (1302 "It is necessary to salvation that every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff." This priest urged his flock to shut their ears to those who criticize the pope and others in authority, because the pope's power is "derived from St. Peter, who presided over the first Church Council of Jerusalem."
Of course, the average Catholic, accustomed to believe everything he hears from the pulpit, does not know that the pope could not derive his position from St. Peter because St. Peter did not possess or claim universal jurisdiction, primacy, infallibility, or any of the things popes claim for themselves. As I said at the outset, Catholics don't know this because they have, from youth, been told otherwise. But if they have read the Book of Acts, they would at least know that the Council of Jerusalem was presided over NOT BY ST. PETER, BUT BY ST. JAMES, the first Bishop of Jerusalem!
In any case, this priest stood before his people and told them to keep silent about the heresies in their church and "be obedient," and this he justified with an untruth about the authority of the pope. One wonders what his congregation would think of the words of Pope St. Gregory the Great, speaking about the title "Ecumenical" or "Universal":
"What will you say to Christ, Who is the Head of the Universal Church, in the scrutiny of the Last Judgement, having attempted to put all His members under yourself by the appellation of Universal... Certainly Peter, the first of the apostles, himself a member of the Universal Church, Paul, Andrew, John -- what were they but HEADS OF PARTICULAR COMMUNITIES... And of all the saints, not one has asked himself to be called Universal... The prelates of the Apostolic See [that is, the bishops of Rome], which by the providence of God I serve, had the honor offered them of being called Universal.. But yet NOT ONE OF THEM has ever wished to be called by such a title, or seized upon this ill-advised name..."
Here we have an Orthodox bishop of Rome and true pope, Gregory the Great, called the "Dialogist" by Orthodox Christians, a saint accepted by BOTH Orthodox and Roman Catholics, one who possessed luminous intellectual, spiritual, administrative and theological talents. He opens his mouth to speak on the subject of authority in the Church, and what does he say? Does he proclaim "All those in submission to me may be saved"? Does he say "Only I, as Bishop of Rome, may hold the title 'Universal', because my 'infallible teaching authority' is to be firmly believed by all the faithful"? He does not. Quite the contrary, he speaks of Peter and the other apostles as being "but heads of PARTICULAR communities." He further says that NOT ONE of his predecessors in the See of Rome had ever presumed to be called "Universal."
We should compare this with Latin Canon law (1325,par.2): "If, finally, anyone denies that he is subject to the Supreme Pontiff, or if he refuses communion with those members of the Church who are subject to him, he is schismatic." Would not St. Gregory the Great ask "Why?" No mention is made in this Canon Law of fidelity to the dogmas of the Faith, to Sacred Tradition, or Church Councils -- only that one be "SUBJECT TO THE SUPREME PONTIFF." How many holy fathers would rise up to ask, "What if the pope teaches heresy?" Roman Catholics reply that the pope is infallible he cannot teach error. Yet it is a fact that popes have taught error.
Our great Orthodox pastoral saint, John of Kronstadt, said: "The cause of ALL THE ERRORS of the Roman Catholic Church is pride, and belief that the pope is the real head of the church and, what is more, that he is infallible." Clearly, the Roman pontiffs are prepared and even willing to accept modernist deviations of all sorts any and everything, in fact, will they compromise or relinquish EXCEPT the very papacy itself. Theologians are allowed to blaspheme, and clergy are permitted to espouse Marxism -- but the PAPACY rides on, unchanged, powerful, and still asking its claim to be universality! As Archimandrite Constantine of Jordanville has written:
"The Catholic sees before him not only a picture of the crumbling of that Whole by which he was accustomed to exhaust his understanding of Truth. He sees a notorious, obvious, boundless transformation of the very concept of Truth, which finally turns out to be nothing more than the papacy itself. THE PAPACY IS READY TO COVER OVER EVERYTHING THAT BEARS THE NAME OF 'CHRISTIANITY'."
Because she has until recently existed outside the mainstream of Western history, culture and ideas, Eastern Orthodoxy has an unique perspective and can give Roman Catholics an objective understanding of their present situation. When Catholics ask why this anti-Christian, revolutionary spirit has invaded their church, we Orthodox Christians reply: Is there perhaps an inner affinity between revolution and Roman Catholicism, an affinity which Catholics cannot see because they are so close to it?
The 19th century Russian Orthodox layman and writer, Dostoyevsky, understood this "inner affinity" quite well and wrote about it in his "Diary of a Writer." As a youth he had shared the socialist dream (and was even sent to Siberia for his political beliefs during this exile he began his conversion to Orthodoxy). He has provided a succinct analysis of the "affinity" between revolution and Roman Catholicism. He saw the French socialism of his day was an attempt to live "without Catholicism and without its gods -- a protest which actually began at the end of the last century [at the time of the French Revolution]." But this "protest" against Catholicism was actually "nothing but the truest and most direct continuation of the Catholic idea, its fullest, most final realization... French socialism is nothing else but a COMPULSORY communion of mankind -- an idea which dates back to ancient Rome and which was fully conserved in Catholicism."
In other words, the old pagan concept of universal unity of 'Pax Romana', has survived and is given new strength by the Roman Catholic Church because the Latin Church...strives for UNIVERSAL SOVEREIGNTY." "Roman Catholicism, which long ago sold out Christ for earthly rule, has compelled mankind to turn away from itself thus she is the prime cause of Europe's materialism and atheism... Socialism has for its aim the solution of the destinies of mankind not in accord with Christ, but without God and Christ." Socialism, says Dostoyevsky, was inevitably and naturally generated by the Catholic Church itself, because it LOST THE CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLE OF GOD-CENTEREDNESS.
He further predicted that "the pope will go to all...on foot and barefooted, and he will teach them that everything the socialists teach and strive for is contained in the Gospel that up till now the time had not been ripe for them to learn this but that now the time has come and he, the pope, will surrender Christ to them, saying: 'What you need is a united front against the enemy. Unite, then, under my power, since I alone -- among all the powers and potentates of the world -- am UNIVERSAL and let us go together!'"
Dostoyevsky wrote these amazing words in 1877. Pius IX was then pope the 'Syllabus of Errors' had recently been issued Catholicism was at its most "reactionary," and socialism had been roundly condemned from the papal throne. Dostoyevsky was not an "oracle" -- he was simply a devout Orthodox layman who was very concerned about world events and their spiritual meaning. Thus, he was able to penetrate to the very essence of Catholicism, the papacy. We can see that his "prophecies" about the pope are already coming true in our day.
Lest anyone think I am exaggerating the role of the papacy, let me quote from three contemporary non-Catholic papal sympathizers -- the first a Jewish theologian, the second an Anglican bishop, and lastly an English "ecumenical" news-weekly:
1. Following the death of Pope Paul, Jacob Neusner commented: "Paul made the papacy a truly 'international force', in a way which, before his day, the world could not have imagined...[Paul] shaped a vision 'worthy of the world's attention.'"
2. Michael Marshall, the Anglican Bishop of Woolwich, went a step further when he issued this appeal to non-Catholics in the summer of 1978 (BEFORE the death of Paul VI): "For the day must surely come when all the Christians are prepared to consider again...'a pope for all Christians'... This is THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION FACING ALL CHRISTIANS of all persuasions today. I cannot believe that history has permitted the papacy to survive, unless it retains in some sense the potentiality of being a VISIBLE HEAD of the Church on earth."
3. The non-denominational English publication Christian World announced the death of Pope John-Paul I with this large headline: A POPE FOR ALL CHRISTIANS. The text spoke of how John-Paul's "sudden death hurt the whole family of man." It concluded with these words: "His death challenges the cardinals to continue the search for a pope who will be accepted as THE SPIRITUAL LEADER OF ALL CHRISTIANS, NO MATTER WHAT CHURCH THEY BELONG TO. This development of ecumenism is preparing the way for a leader who can be a center of unity which is fully catholic."
Who would have thought twenty, fifteen, or even ten years ago, that non-Catholics would be sincerely wishing to be 'led' by the pope of Rome? Is it possible that, after all these centuries, the papacy is close to its moment of greatest triumph?
And is it only a coincidence that numerous heresies, both old and new, are, together with evil political ideas, CONVERGING on the person and position of the bishop of Rome? Is it coincidence that the news media (especially television) has given unparalleled coverage to the deaths and elections of two recent popes -- with a world-wide audience estimated at one billion? Is it by chance that for the FIRST time, Soviet television has broadcast a "religious service" (the papal Mass from the Sistine Chapel on the day after John-Paul II's election)? Is it a coincidence that among those attending the inaugural Mass of John-Paul II were Donald Coggan, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury (the first time this has happened since before the English Reformation), and numerous representatives or heads of other non-Catholic churches?
The bishop of Woolwich also wrote in his appeal that "it all depends on what you mean by the papacy... A 'pope for all Christians' [does not] necessarily mean all the trappings of the medieval papacy." Was it then just coincidental that the two successors of Paul VI disdained a "coronation," laid aside the papal tiara, the ostrich-feather fans, and other "trappings of a medieval papacy" in favor of a "simple installation" -- no longer "Supreme Pontiff," but now "only" the "UNIVERSAL SHEPHERD"?
Political commentators like Leopold Tyrmand have for long observed that Catholicism has become "a modish fabric around the left-liberal principle" -- but now it has gone beyond that, for the papacy appears to have the "organizational task," according to Archimandrite Constantine of Jordanville, "of preparing the throne of the antichrist."
This last will be most repugnant to sensitive Roman Catholics. But it is an honest and perceptive observation made by an Orthodox priest-monk whose purpose is not at all to turn Catholics away in disgust, but to awaken them to the REALITY of what is going on before their very eyes.
Orthodox Christianity, which has been living for two thousand years on the very edge of eternity, faced over and over again with virtual extinction by different conquerors and heretical movements, nourished even in our own times by the blood of martyrs, the myriad martyrs of the Bolshevik oppression in Russia and the other countries of the East, has survived intact and gloriously pure, her eyes focused steadily on the end of the ages and the Second Coming of Christ. As a result, Orthodoxy is keenly aware of the meaning of contemporary events.
She has preserved the ancient Scriptural prophecies, and also the prophecies of many holy fathers and saints through the ages, concerning the Last Days. She knows that antichrist will come when the world is at last united and ready for him. That time is not yet here, but it is rapidly approaching, and the papacy is the one institution in today's world which can and does (as we have seen) command the attention of the entire world, Christian AND non-Christian. [Events of 1990 may be observed to make even these words, written a dozen years ago, appear prophetic, adn more to the point than ever. – ed.]
As Gary MacEoin observed: "The Vatican is going to be in the world limelight in a NEW WAY." To what purpose? In order to show forth the true Christ, Who alone can forgive, heal and save? Or will the world soon hear a voice saying, "Unite under MY power, since I alone am universal: and let us go together!"
HOPE FOR THE DROWNING
I have written at length about the doctrinal corruption, left-wing ideology, and even scandal in the church of Rome. This is, obviously, a significant part of what is going on. But there is another side, one scarcely spoken of today: WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF ALL THIS ON HUMAN SOULS?
Who can calculate the toll being taken among so many Roman Catholics who no longer feel that they belong to their old church? Daily life is so hard and its demands so great that deep distress occurs when a man no longer feels sure of where the truth is. In a letter to the editor of a national publication one Catholic wrote: "It seems to me that most laymen are somewhat lost...that there is a great emphasis on community life, at the expense of a DEEPLY FELT PERSONAL SPIRITUAL LIFE."
At some point, every man demands a satisfying insight into the pro- found questions of life. Increasingly, Catholics are recognizing that they can no longer turn to their church for these answers their sense of fore- boding, frustration and insecurity is extreme. Where, they ask, is the Truth? Is it here, or there with this bishop or that pope? Above all, WHERE CAN I FIND CHRIST?
Dostoyevsky wrote, "the lost image of Christ, in all the light of its purity, is preserved in Orthodoxy." This is my message to Roman Catholic readers. Orthodoxy is the Church you thought you belonged to when you were faithful to pre-Vatican II Catholicism. But even then it was not what it seemed: your church is collapsing now because it started its path of apostasy a good nine centuries or more ago.
For that reason, we Orthodox Christians are not surprised at what we see going on in today's Catholicism. Like a branch, which has been cut from the living tree, Rome had the outward appearance of life for many centuries after the Schism, even though life-giving sap had ceased to flow in her. But now even the outward appearance testifies that this branch is truly dead. A righteous one of recent times, Archbishop John of San Francisco (+1966), described it this way:
"While the Orthodox Church humbly confesses what it has received from Christ and the apostles, the Roman Church dares to add to it, sometimes from 'zeal not according to knowledge'[Rom 10:2]. That "the gates of hell shall not prevail" against the Church [Matt 16:18] is promised only to the True, Universal Church but upon those who have fallen away from it are fulfilled the words, "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, so neither can ye, except ye abide in Me [Jn 15:4]."
Speaking about this, Fr. Nicholas Deputatov writes: "Falling away from the Orthodox Church leads to the cessation of spiritual life, the cessation of development, of the growth of moral personality, and leads to spiritual death. Only in the Church is it possible to have happiness and blessedness as the consequence of inward perfection."
More than one Catholic has found comfort in these words of the great Orthodox Father, St. Basil the Great: "Those of the laity who are sound in faith avoid the places of worship as schools of impiety... The people have left their houses of prayer and assemble in the deserts... because they will have no part in the wicked Arian leaven." Increasing numbers of Roman Catholics are applying these words to their own situation, starting "underground" chapters all over the world.
But I must say to you, avoid your "places" of impiety" as you value your souls. But seek also to be joined to the ORTHODOX FAITH to which St. Basil, whom you value, gave undying witness by his life and writings! The Orthodox Church IS the Catholic Church, in the full and true meaning of the word. She has never departed from the revealed Faith, and never compromised the Truth. Fr. Nicholas says that "she has not bartered Orthodoxy, in order to become fashionable among men, to be recognized by the powerful of this world. No in poverty and in the humility of her earthly banishment she went out over the whole face of the earth, singing of the heavenly calling of all peoples to the Kingdom of Christ, not of this world. And now, being filled up with new tribes and generations (in the diaspora), she bears the triumphant banner of the greatest value given to man on earth: True, undistorted Orthodoxy."
It is in this Church that you will at last find Christ, in all of His radiant and pure Divinity, for, even more than correct doctrine, Orthodoxy teaches the very WAY TO SALVATION! In the words of the late Archbishop Andrew of Novo-Diveyevo(+1978): "The most important thing is to create a pure heart and keep it that way. Here there can be no talk of reforms. The Lord Himself has already given us everything needful in His Church." Archbishop Andrew remembered what his own teacher, the clairvoyant Elder Nectarius of Optina Monastery, had told him at the height of the Russian Revolution, when everything was collapsing around them: "It is the Divine that must be our concern it must enter into all sides of our life." Thus, in utter simplicity, the Orthodox fathers, saints, ascetics and martyrs of all ages can show you HOW TO BELIEVE, how to acquire the Holy Spirit of God, and how to save your soul.
Many of you will think that my confession of Orthodoxy is just my own opinion (in which case it would be worth nothing). It is not my opinion it is the experience of the apostles and saints from the earliest times until our own: the Orthodox Church is not nourished by opinion or by what is "fashionable," but by the living experience of the saints. The saints and fathers actually LIVED the experience of God this enabled them fully to express the spiritual beauty of Christ's Church and witness to it. As St. John of Kronstadt writes: "The holy men of God would not betray the Faith by even so much as a word."
If you wonder about what has been written here, but are not convinced, then turn to God and His all-pure Mother in prayer, fasting and tears. Ask God about Orthodoxy, and He will reveal the truth to you just as He has revealed it to countless others. As pious Roman Catholics, you sought true life and spiritual food. You grieve and weep now because for nourishment you are being given stones instead of bread. But St. John of Kronstadt also says: "The food of the mind is truth the food of the heart is blessedness." Therefore, come to the Orthodox Church: "she will give you all this in plenty, for she possesses it superabundantly. She is THE PILLAR AND GROUND OF THE TRUTH, because.... she teaches the way which leads to eternal life."
Orthodoxy is calling to you: COME UNTO ME, ALL YE THAT LABOR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(*) This little book is posted on this blog. See Book Reviews in sidebar.
(**) Nikodim was a KGB agent infiltrator responsible for Metropolia's betrayal of ROCOR.
A note about Fr. Alexey Young:
He was a spiritual son of Fr. Seraphim Rose and contributed greatly to the Orthodox Church. However, he is not a man to follow, because after Fr. Seraphim died, Fr. Alexey fell into world-Orthodoxy.