The above warning was given to me when I first met Orthodoxy in 1986. Today [2009] it is even more perilous, even more difficult to find the Royal Path. For one thing there is a far greater abundance of misinformation. And many materials are missing, and other materials are being rapidly rewritten. For another thing there are fewer than ever guides remaining on the Royal Path, especially who speak English. Hopefully this website will be a place where Newcomers to the Faith can keep at least one foot on solid ground, while they are "exploring."

blog owner: Joanna Higginbotham


jurisdiction: ROCA under Vladyka Agafangel

who did not submit to the RocorMP union in 2007


Saint Anthony of Siya

The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russia

SAINT ANTHONY OF SIYA is one of the many Saints who looked upon St. Cyril of White Lake and his testament as an example for emulation.  Following in everything St. Cyril and the ascetics of the Northern Thebaid, he was, just like them, a follower of the hesychast school of "sobriety," and this is underlined in his Life, where the "inward activity" (of Jesus Prayer) is mentioned, to which the Saint "paid diligent heed."  For the sake of silence and vision he went to a desert island.  All of his instructions, words, and the facts written in his Life bear witness that the Saint was penetrated through and through with the Gospel teaching.  In him there stands out a trait characteristic of all the Saints of St. Cyril's school: unacquisitiveness.

Like the other ascetics of the Northern Thebaid, he sought out a location which might inspire in the soul an elevated feeling, a feeling of God's presence.  Yet the same wilderness that moved and exalted the soul was at the same time a threatening power, full of every possible danger.  However, he lived even in the midst of wild beasts unharmed, having attained the state of dispassion.  He lived in the midst of deep snow "as in a cave:'

Where did St. Anthony and others acquire such strength that they could thus conquer the very laws of nature?  Even as earlier St. Paul of Obnora, he was "a chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit."  And here is the key to the Saint's supernatural life: he lived, as St. Seraphim of Sarov was to explain it centuries later to Motovilov, having acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit.

THE LIFE OF Saint Anthony of Siya
Commemorated December 7

The Life has been compiled and translated from the condensations of the ancient Life which are to be found in the Russian Lives of Saints (Supplementary Volume, Dec. 7) and in the periodical Rfmky Pfllomnik, 1895.

SAINT ANTHONY of Siya was born in the year 1477 in the village of Kecht, which is thirty miles from the city of Archangelsk on the banks of the Dvina River, and in holy Baptism he was called Andrew in honor of the holy Apostle Andrew the First-called (November 30). The parents of the Saint of Christ, whose ancestors were from Novgorod, were peasants who were quite well-to-do by the standards of that time. His father's name was Nicephorus and his mother's Agatha. While laboring in their occupation, they nonetheless did not give themselves over entirely to worldly cares, but they found time for prayers and good deeds. Keeping strict watch over the purity of their hearts, and preserving a God-pleasing order in their family life. the pious couple often visited the temple of God, made large contributions for its benefit, and fervently entreated the Lord that He might give them children. The Lord heard their prayer and gave them a first-born son, Andrew. Later they had other children also, sons and daughters, but they all yielded the first place to Andrew, both in mental and moral qualities and in outward appearance. Andrew was handsome of face, tall, and had good health. The moral qualities of his meek soul disposed the hearts of his near ones in his favor.

From his earliest years Andrew was quiet, mild, and meek, and it is not astonishing that he was very much loved by his parents. When he was seven years old his parents sent him to learn reading and writing.  To the astonishment of his teacher. the child quickly learned reading and writing and came to love the reading of Divine books. And besides this, his loving parents gave him the opportunity to study the painting of icons. Farm labors no longer attracted Andrew; but with greater love and zeal he gave himself over to his beloved occupations - he painted icons and read whatever books of a spiritual and instructive nature he could receive in his village. With certainty one may assume that in these years he became acquainted, in addition to the service books, with other writings of the Holy Fathers as well; he could encounter these in the collections of Holy Fathers which were widely circulated at this time.  It is known that later, in his monastery, there was a large library, and the writings of the Holy Fathers occupied the first place in it. These occupations strengthened in the soul of Andrew even more those pious habits and dispositions which were instilled in his childhood by his parents.

The time came when his parents grew old and, sensing the approach of death, they gathered all their children together and exhorted them to live piously. "Children," they said, "behold, we have come to deep old age, and severe afflictions have come upon us, as you see yourselves, and death already stands before our eyes.  We entrust you to God and His Most Pure Mother.  They will take care for you throughout your life and will be your Helpers in all your deeds.  And you, children, live in all respects in the way in which you have seen us living.  May the mercy of the Lord be with you unto the ages-"  With special love and in detail they instructed also their first-born son Andrew, and then in peace they departed to the Lord, having travelled the earthly path irreproachably.  At this time Andrew was 25 years old.

After the death of his parents the blessed Andrew settled in Novgorod and spent five years there, serving a certain nobleman. This nobleman was likewise pious and a good man.  He came to love the labor-loving Andrew very much, and he gave him his own daughter for a wife.  But it was not for long that the Lord ordained this pious union to continue: within a year the wife of Andrew died.  Soon his father-in-law died also.  The loss of these dear ones served as a sign for the orphaned-one of the Divine Will: that he, having left the world, should entirely follow Christ.  Having become a stranger to everything worldly, to worldly joys and entertainments, and having become accustomed to spending his life in attending church, the thought of God, and labor, Andrew again went home.  But he did not remain long in Kecht,  Having sold his part of his parents' possessions, and having given the proceeds to the poor, he left his native place for good.

THE BLESSED ONE came to the bank of the river Kena, where, near Lake Keno, St. Pachomius [about 1515; commemorated the first Saturday after Theophany] had founded a monastery dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Lord.  When the future ascetic,on the way to this monastery; was overtaken by the darkness of night not far (three miles) from it and lay down to rest, and after he had prayed fervently to God to be shown the path of salvation- he was made worthy of this vision: in a light sleep there appeared before him a dweller of heaven, a shining elder with grey hairs; he was clothed in white garments and in his hands he had a cross.  He said to the blessed one: "Take up your cross and follow after me; labor and do not fear the devil's nets, for you will be a man of spiritual desires, an upbringing of the wilderness, and you will be an instructor for many monks."  The elder signed him with the cross and, after saying: "By this conquer the evil spirits," he became invisible.

The heart of the blessed one was filled with spiritual joy.  Awakening after this, he spent the entire night in prayer of thanksgiving to God, and in the morning. entering the monastery with tears of joy, he prayed again before the icon of the Saviour which was on the gates, and falling down at the feet of the superior, he humbly entreated him to receive him into his flock.  St. Pachomius, the founder and superior of the Monastery of Keno, did not conceal from Andrew the difficulties of the monastic life and pointed out to him what severe labors he would have to undergo in this monastery which was being established; but nothing frightened the chosen one of God.  He only increased his entreaties and indicated his past life, in which one could not but see indications from Above to leave the world.  For an experienced ascetic and clairvoyant elder such as St. Pachomius already was, the Divine fore-choosing of Andrew could not be doubted, and he clothed the blessed one in the monastic garb; changing his name to Anthony in honor of St. Anthony the Great (January 17).  This was in the thirtieth year of St. Anthony's life, 1508.

The Elder Pachomius entrusted the beginning monk for his 'ascetic upbringing to no one else, but took this labor upon himself.  The zeal of Anthony was very great.  Guided by St. Pachomius, while zealously attending the Divine services he manfully fought against the passions, slept extremely little, and fasted strictly, taking food every other day and even that in a very moderate quantity.  For a year he labored in the bakery, fervently working for the brethren.  He was distinguished by every virtue and firmly resisted every temptation from the evil spirits.  All the brethren loved the Saint, but he was humble and meek, and praises were for him a burden.

It came then to pass that there no longer remained a hieromonk in the monastery. The choice of St. Pachomius and the brethren rested upon St. Anthony. And so the Saint had to go to Novgorod and accept the rank of priest.  This fact, after he had returned to the monastery, yet more inspired the Saint to increase his labors of continence.  In the monastery of St. Pachomius there was an infirmary, and St. Anthony labored not a little time in it: he prepared

water, washed the sick, and cleaned their clothing, mixing his deeds with words of love and comfort.  And the prayers and thanksgiving of the infirm monks served for him as the best reward.

In general St. Anthony, since he was sound in body, accompanied the spiritual activity with increased physical labors, and often he labored in the fields.  By this path he purified his soul and mind from the passions, and mortified the flesh and every attraction toward the world.

And then there came the time for the Saint to leave the monastery which had raised him up, and himself to serve for the salvation of others, preparing himself for this by the labor of solitude.  With deep humility he began to entreat the blessing of St. Pachomius for this.  The latter, seeing his perfection, gave him all needful counsels and blessed him, saying: "May the Lord bless you, my child; may whatever the Lord wills be done!"

HAVING RECEIVED the blessing of the superior, St. Anthony. together with two other pious monks, Alexander and Joachim, departed from the monastery of St. Pachomius and, after travelling along the river Onega to the stream Shelksna, they went along this stream, through forests and impassable thickets, until they came to the river Emsa, into which the Shelksna flows, to the cataracts which are called the Dark Rapids.  This place greatly pleased the anchorites.  They built a cabin here, and after some time they built also a small wooden church dedicated to the Wonderworker St. Nicholas, and some cells.

For seven years St. Anthony lived in this place far from the noise of the world, serving God, when the silence of the wilderness was broken only by the sounds of the inspired monastic prayers and the singing of the feathered inhabitants of the forest.  But then the local inhabitants rose up against the Saint and his disciples, the number of which had increased by four; for by this time Isaiah, Elisha, Alexander (another), and Jonah had also come to St. Anthony.  The local inhabitants feared that with the foundation of a monastery their land would be taken away from them, and they began to drive away the monks.  St. Anthony accepted this trial with submission to the Will of God, and he meekly went away from his persecutors together with his disciples.

[Up to the time of the Russian Revolution there was a chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker at this place.  The local inhabitants until very recent times lived in extreme poverty, and according to the common opinion this was because of their unjust treatment of St. Anthony, however, in the 19th century, when they began to venerate the Saint with faith, their condition became much better.]

And so the monks went about the northern lands which lie in the region of the Dvina, passing through the impenetrable forests, gorges, and swamps which lie near the White Sea, and the mossy places and inconstant marshes and the many lakes, seeking a suitable place, wherever God might instruct them to stay.  Once, at this time,  St. Anthony stood at prayer; the monks were praying humbly and the Saint, as their intercessor, stood before them with his hands raised on high.  At this very time a hunter whose name was Samuel came out to the place where the monks were standing.  For a long time he did not dare to go up to them.  The wondrous picture of the praying monks in the midst of the forest astounded the hunter.  Finally, being convinced that what he saw was real, the hunter went up to the Saint and received his blessing, and when the Saint asked him to show them a place convenient for monastic labors, he brought him with his disciples to a distant lake. which was called Michailov, into which the river Siya flows.  This place was even more remote than the place where the monks had settled before, having impenetrable gorges and dense forests, and great thickets and swamps, and mossy places and inconstant marshes, where there dwelled wild beasts, bears and wolves. deer and hares and foxes, a great multitude of them, which were like herds. There were many lakes round about, and they were very deep.  And the place was surrounded by waters as by walls.  There were not many paths which had been trod by human feet, and one could enter or leave only by one way.  About the holy monastery there were many lakes, and the river Siya flowed from one lake to the next, and they were as if bound by the river Siya in a kind of union, so that visitors, when they saw this, marvelled at the unutterable wisdom of God.

No one had ever lived in this region; but hunters, when they visited this place, often heard the sound of bells and the singing of monks, and they even saw monks cutting the trees.  Therefore the people living closest to this place were convinced that it had been appointed by God Himself as a place for a monastery.

THE PLACE on Lake Michailov was very pleasing to the soul of St. Anthony.  Here he built a chapel and cells.  This happened in the year 1520, in the 42nd year of St. Anthony's life; and thus the foundation of the Monastery of Siya was laid.  Until 1524 the monks had nothing.  The Saint himself, together with the other monks. cut trees and worked the earth, and by this means they obtained for themselves a scant living.  They also ate wild plants: berries, roots, herbs, and mushrooms.  Often they endured severe hunger.  Once their hunger was so great that the brethren of St. Anthony murmured against him and were prepared to separate.  At this time there came to them an unknown man who brought oil, flour, and bread and gave money for the building of the monastery.  Having received the blessing of St. Anthony for his further journey to Novgorod, the benefactor departed and never returned again.  Having received this unexpected help, St. Anthony began fervently to put the monastery in order; and at this time the following trial occurred.

The collector of taxes for the ruler of Novgorod, Basil Beber, thinking that the builders had much money, hired thieves and wished to plunder the monastery.  But the Lord preserved His chosen one.  When the evil-doers wished to attack the monastery, it seemed to them as if it were surrounded by a multitude of armed men.  They told the collector of taxes about this, and he, knowing that the monks had no defenders, understood that the elders were being preserved by heavenly beings, and he repented of his evil thought and, falling at the feet of St. Anthony, begged forgiveness.  The Elder meekly forgave the guilty one, and this served as a cause of great glory for the God-pleaser.  From this time on many people began to come to the Saint and, receiving the tonsure, comprised a considerable community.

Seeing the increase of the brethren, St. Anthony sent two of his disciples, Alexander and Isaiah, to Moscow to the Grand Prince Basil Ioannovich, with the request to allow the establishment of a monastery and to give land for this.  St. Anthony had been known to the Grand Prince even earlier as a man of holy life.  Therefore he was kindly disposed to this request, and not only did he allow the establishment of the monastery, but he also awarded lands to it, and gave everything necessary for its beginning.  With joy Alexander and Isaiah returned to their teacher, and the whole brotherhood fervently prayed for the health of the good Tsar.  This was in the year 1544.

The EIder, rejoiced by' this, energetically undertook the building of the monastery.  Thus he built a church in honor of the Life-giving Trinity.  St. Anthony himself painted the main icon of the Holy Trinity and entreated that this icon, being preserved in the monastery, would remind the brethren of his soul.

But the church that had been built with such effort soon burned in a fire caused by a candle which the candle-lighter had forgotten to extinguish before one icon.  The fire could not be put out, for when the church burned the brethren, apart from the sick and the servants, were all laboring in the fields.  The monks only saw with sorrow in place of the church a pile of ruins, and they wished to separate.  But the Saint, even though he was saddened, nonetheless trusted in the Will of God and persuaded the monks to remain; and increasing his prayers and fasting, he began to build new churches.  The monastery buildings apart from the church remained unharmed.  At the same time the Lord visibly consoled his chosen servant.  The church burned, but the icon of the Holy Trinity which had been painted by the Saint was found in the midst of the monastery completely unharmed.  And it was triumphantly brought into the church of the Life-giving Trinity when its building was completed.  Soon from this icon, by the prayers of the Saint, the infirm began to receive healing.  Besides the church of the Holy Trinity, St. Anthony built two other churches: one dedicated to the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God, with a wing dedicated to St. Sergius of Radonezh, to whom the Saint often appealed in his prayers; and another in honor of St. Andrew the First-called.  The Annunciation church was heated, and it had a refectory.

When the monastery was completed the brethren entreated the Saint to take upon himself the rank of abbot.  For the salvation of those who entreated him the humble Elder accepted this rank, and for several years he governed the monastery.

In governing the monastery the Saint gave to everyone a good example.  Daily he was in the church of God, and standing at the Divine service from beginning to end, he did not lean on his staff or against the wall.  And he watched over the brethren so that they would observe good order in church: that they should not go from place to place and would not go out except out of extreme necessity.  He ordered that the brethren should without fail perform their cell rule of prayer also.  At the end of prayer the Saint was the first to begin work, and here he gave the brethren an example of love of labor.  He loved also divine books, and he collected many volumes of the Fathers and Teachers of the Church.  Spending his nights in prayer, the Saint rested only for a short time, forgetting himself in sleep after the meal.  His food was just as meager as that of the brethren.  His clothing was old, covered with patches like the clothing of paupers, so that no one from outside could recognize the Saint as the Superior of the monastery.  With concern he supervised the monastery labors, the kitchen and bakery; he encouraged the brethren who were bearing these difficult obediences and counselled them to avoid idle conversations.  With special love he visited the monastery infirmary, instructed the sick monks to bear their infirmities with gratitude and to pray unceasingly, remembering the approaching hour of death.  The Saint appointed a special supervisor to take care of the sick.

The strict coenobitic life was established in the monastery; food and clothing were common and equal for everyone. Intoxicating beverages were totally prohibited; totally prohibited; it was ordered that they should not be received from visitors either, and that those who brought them should not even be allowed in the monastery.  And by this rule the blessed one was able to chop off the head of the serpent of drunkenness and uproot it entirely.  The Saint was also much concerned for the poor brethren; he advised the monks to give unstinting alms and he himself not infrequently did this in such a way that the brethren might not know, fearing to evoke their complaints.

Hearing of the Saint's strict life, many began to come to him asking his prayers, and some entered the brotherhood.  Some seventy monks were gathered together in the monastery.  Many among them were distinguished by the sanctity of their lives and their spiritual labors; one of them, Jonah, later wrote the Life of his spiritual father and instructor.

In the monastery of St. Pachomius St. Anthony died to the world; his life in the wilderness by the Emsa River was a preparatory school for him; and his life in the Monastery of Siya was the time when the God-pleaser, the man of spiritual desires, served his Lord, laboring for the salvation of his lesser brothers.  He was in truth "an instructor for many monks," as the shining elder had prophesied.  Not being satisfied with his own instructions, the Saint gave the monks the opportunity to learn for themselves the essence and ways of the spiritual activity, by gathering in the monastery library the works of many of the Eastern ascetics and Fathers.

SAINT ANTHONY was weighed down by the glory of men.  After several years of governing the monastery, having chosen in his place Theognostes, a man experienced in spiritual life, he left the abbotcy and, together with one simple monk, he departed from the monastery into a solitary place.  At first St. Anthony settled on an island in Lake Dudnitsa, two miles from the monastery, upstream on the river Siya. This island was very beautiful and convenient for desert-dwelling.  The Saint went about the island, examined it entirely and came to love it: the island was surrounded by the lake, on whose shores impenetrable forests grew, and on the island there was an extensive swamp, overgrown with moss.  St. Anthony settled here, built a small hut and a chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, and he began to labor in silence, unceasing prayer, and labors even more zealously than before: he felled trees, cleared a place for sowing, dug the earth with his own hands, sowed wheat, and lived by his own labors; and the wheat that was left over went to the monastery.  At night, after the evening rule of prayer, the ascetic milled grain until time for Matins; during the summer nights he stripped to the waist and gave himself over to be eaten by mosquitoes.

The Lord granted to the ascetic the gift of clairvoyance.  A young monk of the Monastery of Siya, Philotheus, being engaged in warfare by the tempter, thought of going into the world, renouncing hIs monasticism, and getting married.  But the good thought came to him to go beforehand to the Saint in the wilderness and receive a blessing from him.  Seeing Philotheus, the ascetic turned to him with these words: "How is it, my child, that you have come here being disturbed by an evil thought?  You wish to go into the world, to renounce monasticism, and you think you can conceal it from me."

Hearing this secret from the mouth of the Saint, Philotheus became terrified, fell at his feet, and acknowledged everything.  The ascetic raised him up, encouraged him, and after instructing him let him go back to the monastery.

After some time St. Anthony went away to another solitary place three miles from the previous place.  This place was in the mountains and was surrounded by mountains as by walls; and in the valley between these mountains was a lake, which was called Padoun.  At the base of these mountains stood the cell of the Saint, and around it were twelve birch trees, as white as snow.  On the mountains there grew such a tall forest that from below it seemed to reach to the heavens.  Most melancholy was this place, so that one coming to see this wilderness would have great contrition, for the very sight of the place could bring the beholder of it into tender feeling.  Here the Saint made a raft out of logs, and from it he fished on the lake for his food.  While he was fishing he would bare his head and shoulders to be eaten by mosquitoes and gnats: whole hives of the insects would fly to him and cover his body, and the blood would flow along his neck and shoulders; but the ascetic would stand unmoving, not touching them with a single finger.

In the winter the Saint's cell was covered with snow, and he lived under the snow as in a cave, and sent up to God his fervent prayers with warm tears.  Paying diligent heed to the inward activity, he joyfully strove toward the heights, remaining much in silence, removing his mind from all cares,and conversing purely with God, sending up his prayer like incense to heaven.

Thus did the Saint spend two years outside his monastery in both of these wildernesses.

In the meantime Theognostes renounced the abbotcy.  The brethren entreated the Saint to be their abbot again, saying: "Father, do not abandon us, your children," the brethren said with tears.  "Come to your monastery and remain with us.  And if you do not come, we will all scatter like sheep that have no shepherd."

St. Anthony yielded to their entreaties.  Again he began to govern the monastery, giving to all an example of pious and ascetic life.  From old age he no longer had the strength to perform physical work, but he did not grow drowsy in prayer nor weak in fasting.  And then there appeared in St. Anthony the gift of working miracles – the reward of his holy life.

Before the very feast of the Transfiguration, the monks labored the entire night at fishing, but they caught nothing.  Saddened, they came to the monastery, but the Saint encouraged them and again sent them to the lake, to the Red Cape, saying: "Children, show obedience and you will see the glory of God, for the Lord is merciful: the Life-giving Trinity will not forget your labors and will not abandon the brethren who faithfully serve the Lord in this holy place and who are hungry on the great feast."

The monks set out for the place that was indicated to them, let out their net, and caught such a multitude of fish that they were eating it for a long time after the feast.  From that time on they began to call this fishing place "Anthony's."

From his severe ascetic labors and from old age the body of St. Anthony withered and grew weak.  His sight grew dim, his legs grew swollen, and the monks had to lead him to church.  Like an olive tree under the burden of its fruit, he bent down towards the earth, bent over by his years and labors.  His bodily powers declined; he had accomplished his earthly path, and his purified spirit was already prepared to arise into the heavens towards our Saviour, Whom he had served for his entire life.  The repose of the Saint approached.

SEEING THE INFIRMITY of their instructor and expecting that he would soon die, the brethren entreated the Saint to give them a written rule and indicate to them a successor in the governing of the monastery.  The Saint fulfilled the entreaty of his sorrowing disciples. he appointed as the builder of the monastery Cyril, and as abbot in his own place Gelasius.  Gelasius at that time was beyond the White Sea, on the river Zolatitsa, having been sent there on business.  Cyril was in the monastery, and the Saint addressed himself to him with his final instruction: he exhorted him to preserve the monastic rule inviolate, concerning the church services, concerning food and drink; to love the brethren equally and to be the servant of all; to judge concerning monastery matters with all the brethren at trapeza, and to do nothing without taking counsel of them, so that there might be no dissatisfaction in the monastery; he prescribed that the sick brethren should be visited and that special care should be taken for them.

Then the Saint turned to the assembled brethren and exhorted them not to grow faint in prayer, to have mutual love and oneness of mind, to remove themselves from anger and evil words, to submit to the elder, to preserve purity in body and soul, to have food according to the rule of the monastery and to flee drunkenness entirely, and to preserve without any infringement the cenobitic rule of the monastery.

So that his instructions might have greater force, the Saint gave the brethren a testament written with his own hand, which contained also the rules of monastic life. Here we quote these rules of the great Saint of Siya:

"And whichever of the brethren are complainers and schismatics (that is, violators of brotherly unity) and do not wish to live according to the monastic order nor submit to the abbot and brethren, should be banished from the monastery so that the others will have fear."  However, after sincere repentance they should be accepted again and kept as brethren, as also were to be those who had left the monastery during the lifetime of the Saint and took from the monastery's funds, if they have repented.  "Before everything else may you have the fear of God in your hearts, that the Holy Spirit may dwell in them, and that He might instruct you and set you on the true path.  Among yourselves have love and submission in Christ to one another, by which you will cover up your many sins.  In the common life live in equality both in body and spirit, in food and clothing, according to the commandment of the Holy Fathers.  Do not give the abbot in the refectory anything in food or drink above what the other brethren receive.  Let there be the same equality also in clothing and shoes.  Do not keep intoxicating beverages in the monastery and do not receive them from visitors.  Women should not spend the night in the monastery at all, and likewise men from the world should not spend the night with the brethren and should not live in the cells.  Give the poor sufficient to eat and drink and give them alms, lest this holy place should come to know want.  And the brethren who are well should not be left without monastic obedience for the sake of their salvation, with the exception of the sick.  Do not allow the peasants to make fields and yards near the monastery, except for a place for cows, and let that be beyond the lake.  Preserve this, I entreat you, and may the mercy of God be with you."  Then, having entrusted his monastery to the Mother of God and St. Sergius, St. Anthony prepared for his end.

When the brethren asked where his body should be given over to burial, the Saint replied: "Bind my legs and drag my sinful body into the wilds and trample upon it in the moss in the swamp, that it may be eaten by beasts and reptiles, or else hang it on a tree to be eaten by birds, or else throw it with a stone into the lake."

But the monks said outright that they would not do this, but would honorably bury his body.  On the eve of his repose the Saint received communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.  On the next day, 7 December, 1556, before Matins, having bade farewell to the brethren, when the monks Andronicus and Pachomius had offered incense in his cell and at their teacher's word had left the cell, the Saint of Christ, having folded his arms in the form of a cross, peacefully gave his soul unto the Lord.  In all he had lived 79 years, of which 37 he had spent in the region of Siya, both in the monastery and the wilderness.  The orphaned brethren honorably buried his holy relics in the church of the Life-giving Trinity, on the right side near the Altar.  The brethren adorned his grave with icons and candles, and every day they came to pray for the repose of his soul, and believing in his boldness before God, they asked his intercession.

The priest of the nearby village, Chariton, had envy towards the memory of St. Anthony, and once he expressed himself sacrilegiously regarding him.  After this Chariton suddenly became blind, and soon he understood that the Lord was chastising him for his blasphemy against the Saint.  Then he began to repent for his transgression, and he fervently prayed and his sight was restored.  Giving thanks to the Lord and His Saint, Chariton went after this to the Monastery of Siya and labored in monasticism.

During his lifetime St. Anthony loved to paint icons.  Even up to this century there were preserved holy icons painted by his own hand.  And even after his repose he was a patron of those who undertook this God-pleasing work.  Thus the abbot of the Monastery of Siya, Pitirim (1577 1586), being concerned over the proper adornment of the monastery, painted many new icons and restored old ones.  Once Pitirim became ill.  His infirmity increased all the time, and death began to threaten him.  The sick man prayed to the Life-giving Trinity and St. Anthony.  And behold, once at night, falling into a light sleep, he saw how a magnificent elder, adorned with gray hairs, was walking from the tomb of the Saint with a sack.

"Do you wish to be well and finish what you have begun?" he asked Pitirim.  "I wish to, but I cannot," replied the sick man.  To this the elder said: "The Holy Trinity heals you, do not grow faint in your work; I, the Abbot Anthony, have come to visit you in your affliction."  The Wonderworker touched the sick abbot.  Pitirim felt himself to be well and with new zeal he began to occupy himself with icon-painting and the adornment of the churches of the monastery.

A merchant from Holmagor whose name was Carpus was sailing on the sea off the shore of Tersk, beginning from the river Varzuga.  In his boat, among other goods, there was a supply of fish for the Monastery of Siya. A great storm arose; the waves rose like mountains and lashed the boat; and the oarsmen already despaired entirely of salvation. Suddenly Carpus saw not far from him an elder who spread out his mantle over the boat and protected it from the waves.

"You called on many for help," said the wondrous elder to the astonished merchant, "but you did not call on me.  Yet in your boat there is a part also for our monastery.  But God will grant stillness."

"Who are you, O man of God?" asked the merchant.  "I am Anthony, the Abbot of the monastery at Lake Michailov, on the river Siya," said the elder, and became invisible.  From this time the storm began to grow still and a favorable wind arose.  Coming safely to the Monastery of Siya, Carpus gave thanks for his salvation to St. Anthony, and soon received the monastic tonsure in his monastery.

A certain Timothy, whose surname was Ryabok, who lived seven miles from the monastery, became blind and could see nothing for two years.  The feast of the Life-giving Trinity approached, and pilgrims were going to the Monastery of Siya.  When the blind man heard the movement of people he wept bitterly that he was unable to go with the God-fearing people.  Praying warmly to the Most Holy Trinity and the Saint, Timothy asked that he be conducted to the monastery, and the whole way he continued to pray mentally.  Suddenly he felt that he began to see a certain faint dawn, and then he began to see green: this was the forest through which he was walking.  Rejoicing, Timothy feared to believe his healing and did not say anything to his companions.  Desiring to test his eyes, he began to examine the road on which he was walking, and he could make out the path.  His heart was filled with joy and rapture, but he restrained himself and did not yet speak about his healing.  Coming to the church of the monastery, Timothy saw the wonderworking icon of the Life-giving Trinity and other icons, and he saw the burning candles: and then in the hearing of all he gave thanks to the Lord and His Saint for hill miraculous healing.

Many other miracles also occurred by the prayers of this great Saint of God to the glory of the Holy Trinity.

The numerous miracles performed at the grave of St. Anthony inspired the brethren of the monastery of Siya under the above-mentioned Abbot Pitirim to petition Tsar John the Terrible that the Saint be joined to the choir of Saints.  This was done just 23 years after the death of the Saint, in the year 1579.  Thus was St. Anthony joined to the choir of Saints venerated by the whole Russian Church.


FROM THY YOUTH, O Saint, thou didst refine thy flesh in fastings and prayers, * 
and taking up thy cross, thou didst follow after Christ. * 
Wherefore thou didst joyfully finish thy course even to the heights, *
where with all' the Saints thou dost stand before the Holy Trinity: *
and now, visiting thy flock, remember those who honor thy holy memory; *
that we all in thanksgiving may cry out to thee: * 
rejoice, O divinely-wise Anthony, instructor of the desert.

Spiritual Father and Spiritual Child

The Spiritual Father and the Spiritual Child:
Love and Freedom,
or Domination and Dependence?

An address by His Grace, Bishop Cyprian of Oreoi,
delivered at the Second Clergy-Laity Gathering,
November 2/15, 2012

Reverend Fathers and Mothers,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Children in the Lord:

A. Preface

I call upon the prayers of our much-revered Elder, Guide, and Father, Metropolitan Cyprian, as well as the strengthening and guidance of our Mother, the Theotokos, and also your own prayers, that I might deal—almost pithily—with only the most basic points of the multifaceted subject, “The Spiritual Father and the Spiritual Child: Love and Freedom, or Domination and Dependence?”

In essence, I will not set forth anything original here; that is, I will not present a complete, albeit brief, treatise on the subject. I will simply endeavor to codify things that are already known to you, and in particular, in the light of my humble experience as a confessor and spiritual Father of both laypeople and monastics.

I must admit from the outset that what prompted me to discuss this topic was not the assuredly pleasant side of the relationship between spiritual Father and spiritual child, but rather the unpleasant side—the so-called “pathology of spiritual Fatherhood.”

I have ascertained and recorded the dangers entailed in this reciprocal relationship, and I wish, within the scope of my pastoral responsibility and in a clear manner, to draw to the attention of both the spiritual Father and the spiritual child that this relationship in the Holy Spirit should remain just what it always has been: namely, a ministry of reconciliation between man and God.

B. General Context

1. We are witnesses to the great danger of this charism—this “ministry of reconciliation”—being distorted to such an extent that the spiritual Father demeans himself into becoming a guide to merely outward behavior and a “rule-keeper”; that is, a guardian and defender of canonical and legal ordinances, a ruler and despot, who ultimately brings about the destruction of his spiritual child, a person created in the image of God.

2. Authentic Orthodox Tradition, on the other hand, has endowed spiritual Fatherhood with an ecclesiological character; the Bishop, as a “type of the Father,” followed by the Priests, and after that the Abbas, Elders, and Startsi, and also the spiritual Mothers, or Ammas, have all received a particular charism: the charism of spiritual Fatherhood or Motherhood; that is, through the Gospel they “give birth” to spiritual children—who are not theirs, but God’s—and experience the “travail” of a preternatural childbearing, “until Christ be formed” in their hearts.

3. This charism, though cultivated, to be sure, within the canonical boundaries of the Church, is the result of a mystical “ordination” within the charismatic realm of the Church—that mysteriological realm, that is, wherein Divine Grace is conceived, gestates, and is born in the heart of the spiritual child.

4. In other words, in Orthodoxy, we have a liturgical Fatherhood, which is bound up with the Priesthood; but we also have a charismatic Fatherhood and Motherhood, which is an exceptional gift of the Divine Comforter. These two kinds of Fatherhood can coincide, and our address today deals first and foremost with this concurrence.

5. Within the charismatic realm of “spiritual childbearing,” the spiri3
tual Father performs the lofty ministry of being, among other things, a mystagogue, “bridal escort,” physician, therapist, minister, and coworker in the journey of his spiritual child towards deification, or Christification.

6. The Father’s “spiritual travail” is unswervingly directed towards one end: to guide his spiritual child to maturity and emancipation in Christ, that is, to freedom in the Holy Spirit.

7. This mysteriological relationship involves the meeting and communion of two persons in love and freedom, always focusing upon the Theandric Person of Christ; that is to say, both remain in obedience to the Church and to God.
  I would remind you of the pertinent teaching of St. John Chrysostomos:
In human terms, there is a distinction between sheep and Shepherds, but in relation to Christ all are sheep; for those who shepherd and those who are shepherded are pastured by one Shepherd on high.

8. In order for spiritual Father and spiritual child to become whole and complete persons in Christ, they must both constantly strive to focus on the Person of Christ. In the relationship between them, there is no place for domination or dependence, coercion or obedience as an end in itself, punishment for the sake of “atonement” or practicing one’s faith as a mere set of religious rules, transference of responsibility, or pathological self-abnegation. Rather, in this relationship there is room only for love and freedom.

9. This endeavor, as you have by now understood, is fraught with dangers on both sides. That is, there is a possibility that, whether out of ignorance, immaturity, or human weakness, the spiritual Father might harm his spiritual child, and vice versa.
  In such cases, spiritual Fatherhood and spiritual sonship cease being authentic and consequently have destructive effects on either one side or the other, or on both sides at the same time.

10. Hence, I deem it necessary to stress several specific points for the protection of both sides. I would like to make it clear, however, that first and foremost I am addressing spiritual Fathers who serve those outside of a monastic setting, namely, laypeople.

C. Specific Points

1. Christian love for one’s spiritual Father is a spiritual matter; it is a mystery, wherein we have a communion of persons—not a sentimental, psychological, or merely rational communion, but an existential one.

2. The love and obedience of a spiritual child to his or her spiritual Father, as an expression of gratitude and respect, does not constitute a cult of personality or a “dependent personality disorder,” but rather an exodus from the prison of an unhealed mind and of self-love, towards a meeting and mutual circumincession of the two persons amid the Uncreated Light of the Holy Trinity.

3. Love and respect for one’s spiritual Father are elevating and ontological in character. That is, the spiritual child, as an image of God, is elevated by his spiritual Father to his Prototype, the Uncreated Image of God, which is Christ Himself; hence, in loving and honoring our spiritual Father, we love and render honor to Christ.

4. The spiritual Father is in the type and place of the presence of Christ; that is, Christ acts in the spiritual Father, and through him Christ is made present. Hence, love for our spiritual Father is love for Christ our Savior, Who is present through him.

5. Nothing but obedience—in a spirit of love, freedom, respect, and faith—to our spiritual Father combats self-assurance and tyrannical self-love, imparts the Grace and blessing of the Holy Trinity, and leads the spiritual child to contemplation of the Uncreated Light.

6. The spiritual Father must also have his own spiritual Father, since his own personal spiritual “birth” must come first, and only then the spiritual “birth” of his spiritual children.

7. The spiritual child should not confuse a loving, spiritual relationship in Christ with his spiritual Father on the one hand, with idealization—i.e., practically mythologizing his spiritual Father as a sort of ideal—on the other. The spiritual Father is also a human being with weaknesses, and when his spiritual child, upon perceiving such failings, encounters them with genuine love, in a constructive and edifying way, he is protected from (spiritual) disillusionment and collapse.

8. The spiritual child should not seek “over-protection” in the form of a “super-dad,” on whom he would place all of his responsibilities by way of unhealthy submission, blind obedience, and psychological dependence. Rather, he should seek to experience the Mystery of spiritual Fatherhood and sonship, so as to be led from the level of a slave to the freedom of the children of God—to spiritual adoption.

9. The spiritual Father should fear lest he distort the integrity of the person of his spiritual child by transforming his office of ministration into one of domination—and absolute domination at that— thereby becoming a director of consciences and creating followers instead of spiritual children.

10. A spiritual Father “gives birth” in Christ to a child, assists him in cultivating the charism of wisdom and attentiveness, and supports and heartens him, until he comes of age, such that his spiritual child might thereafter live out his freedom in a spirit of love, making responsible use of the talents and charisms given to him by God.

11. The spiritual Father should not encourage unwholesome—or, in any event, excessive—expressions of devotion to his person (e.g. servile prostrations, prolonged hand-kissing, the asking of blessings for trivial matters, etc.), since in this way he is in danger of being assailed by the spiritual sickness of narcissism and anthropocentric Eldership.

12. Likewise, he must not cultivate the deadly sickness of a cult-like following, wherein, veiled under unhealthy ties of obedience, lie timidity, cowardice, insecurity, irresponsibility, and fanaticism on the part of the spiritual child, such that the spiritual Father, manipulating these weaknesses, indiscriminately intrudes into all of the aspects of his spiritual child’s personal, family, and social life.

13. The spiritual Father does not supersede the thoughts and mind of his spiritual child, but rather acts therapeutically: he turns his spiritual child’s thoughts and mind toward God, such that, by means of the Mysteries and the keeping of the commandments, these might be healed, illumined, and deified, so as to be rightly oriented in freedom.

14. The spiritual Father must not forget that obedience is not an end in itself, but a means and a spiritual tool, which, when employed Chris6
tocentrically and not anthropocentrically, leads his spiritual child to maturity and freedom, and not to being an automaton or robot.

15. The spiritual Father sins gravely when he indirectly or directly encourages a pathological dependence on himself and crushingly oppresses his spiritual child’s conscience in the name of blind obedience, which is supposedly due to his person; whereas Christ asks of us only a conscientious obedience, in love and freedom.

16. The spiritual Father is not a despot and steamroller seeking to create faithful replicas of himself; rather, he encourages the development of his spiritual child’s personhood and gifts, such that the latter might be able to take hold of the helm of his life in a responsible manner.

17. Under no circumstances whatsoever should the boundaries be confused between monastic obedience to an Elder and a layperson’s obedience to his spiritual Father; for there is a profound mysteriological difference between these two forms of obedience: the monastic, on the one hand, has committed himself to a very particular form of obedience, absolute in nature, through vows, and with a definite purpose; the layperson, on the other hand, has committed himself to a general form of “obedience to Christ” through Baptism and Chrismation.

18. The bond that joins the spiritual Father and spiritual child is a bond of mutual love in Christ, which must be constantly purged of all emotional exaltation and shielded on both sides from anything that might conceal passion, in both the broad and narrow senses of the word, such that this bond might develop in an atmosphere of modesty and simplicity, solemnity and sobriety, and intimacy and reserve.

D. Concluding thoughts and exhortations

1. Hence, let both spiritual Father and spiritual child take care lest their blessed relationship develop into one of psychological dependency. It is very important that the spiritual Father motivate his spiritual child to bring every thought and movement of his being into “submission to Christ,” because only thereby will he be cured and reborn in love and freedom.

2. Let the spiritual Father take care lest he give the impression that he himself constitutes a sort of ideological or psychological refuge, where his anxious, agitated, and frightened spiritual child might find relief of a transient and superficial nature. Rather, he must take pains to make clear and emphatic the distinction between freedom that derives from the Holy Spirit and the self-imposed hell of self-love, and to promote a sense of responsibility and a “holy” boldness and persistence in the cultivation of spiritual charisms—and all of this, to be sure, having in view our “meeting” with the Person of Christ.

 Let the spiritual Father take care not to forget that he, first, as a “Minister of Jesus Christ,” is subservient to the Church; hence, he does not embody a sort of domination over his spiritual child. He thus ought to act with complete self-denial by his submission to the preĆ«minent and only true spiritual gu
ide of the Church, which is the Holy Spirit.
4. Let the spiritual Father take care always to have as a rule of action the exhortation of the great Elder, St. Barsanouphios (Reply 35):
Do not force [your spiritual child’s] will, but rather sow hope; for our Lord did not coerce anyone, but spread the Gospel, and whoever so desired listened.

. Let the spiritual Father take care not to “appropriate” his spiritual child; rather, if the latter progresses in the spiritual life and becomes in need of something higher, which the former is not able to offer him, then this spiritual Father, with love and humility, should lead him to a more experienced spiritual Father—a better “physician” or “therapist.”

6. Let the spiritual child, in turn, also take care not to content himself with the real or putative holiness of his spiritual Father, boasting about this and remaining carefree; rather, he should strive, with zeal, to the best of his ability [in the spiritual life], since neither God nor his spiritual Father will save him, if he does not practice his freedom in a responsible manner.
• A monk once visited St. Anthony the Great and asked him to pray for him. The Saint replied: “Neither do I have mercy on you nor does God, if you yourself do not make haste to beseech God.”

7. Let the faithful in general take care not to change from one spiritual Father to another, in an attempt—usually in vain—to discover a spiritual Father of “extraordinary holiness,” who would supposedly take upon himself all responsibility and immediately and miraculously resolve all of their problems; for, by means of a simple spiritual Father who has fear of God, it is possible for the faithful—while banishing all self-justification—to activate Divine zeal, overcome their self-love, sacrifice themselves on behalf of their neighbor, and to become true “Persons,” in love and freedom, amidst the ineffable radiance of the Holy Trinity, of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
I thank you!

†Bishop Cyprian of Oreoi,
November 2/15, 2012,
Acharnai, Athens
Unto Him Who bestows
every good gift,
God, the Lover of mankind,
be glory and thanksgiving,
now and ever!

The Chinese Mind


The Chinese Mind

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 

The following is a tape transcript of an informal class which Fr. Seraphim gave to young men at the St. Herman Monastery in 1981, a year or so before his death.(1) Because he was speaking to young people who had little or no prior knowledge of Chinese culture, he kept his talk on a practical level and did not go deeply into the more subtle aspects of Chinese thought.  Nevertheless, this talk is valuable in that it gives an overview of Fr. Seraphim's later views on the world of ancient China, whose wholesome values of tradition, orthodoxy, honesty, respect and love helped him to return to Jesus Christ in the Orthodox faith.

Chinese civilization developed independently from Western civilization.  There are certain things which are unique to it, and certain other things which are surprisingly like things in the West.  In fact, in the history of China there are some moments when it is absolutely incredible how the same things happened in Chinese life as happened in the West, although there was no connection between the two civilizations.  It is as though there really is a spirit of the times – which hits Rome, China, India, all at the same time even with no outward connection.  According to the Chinese texts themselves, Chinese civilization as an independent reality goes back to about 2300 B.C., to their 1st dynasty.  Before that there are only vague records – back to perhaps 2900 B.C. – but no one knows when the people suddenly appeared there.  According to universal chronology, it was most likely not long after the Flood.


1. The first characteristic of the Chinese mind is that it is extremely history-conscious.  That is why they have historical annals going back all the way to 2300 B.C.  Every dynasty has its annals, and begins to write down its history from its very inception.  This, then, is an outstanding characteristic of the Chinese mind, that they are very much oriented towards chronicling what is going on – they were always writing history.  Later on we will see that historical annals are one of the basic forms of literature in China, because the people are so sensitive to chronology.  When modern scholars first began going to China to look at the recorded chronology, they began to question it.  They saw that there was recorded a certain dynasty, the Shang dynasty, which was dated precisely from 1766 B.C. to 1180 B.C.  The scholars began to criticize, saying that it can't be that ancient and that it probably never existed.  At the turn of the century, however, they discovered so-called dragon bones, which were used as oracles, to call on heaven and the gods.  Scholars got hold of this archeological find and deciphered the old form of script on the bones, and they dated them back to 1500-1700 B.C.  On the bones was written a complete list of the kings of that dynasty which supposedly did not exist according to modern scholars.    

My Chinese professor [Gi-ming Shien] told me that whenever there is a conflict between archeology and written texts, human beings must believe the written texts, because archeology is only ground and your opinions and interpretations, while the written texts are other human beings – whom you have to trust.  This is the basic Chinese attitude.

2. The second characteristic of the Chinese mind is its down-to-earth orientation.  My Chinese professor once told me that the Indian mind is quite different, because the Indians are up in the heavens, seeking Brahman, spiritual experiences, and so on, while the Chinese are always right down to earth.  That is why I liked them from the beginning.  Although the Chinese mind is also very spiritual in a way, it never loses track of the present reality.  The people do sometimes, but the basic Chinese culture doesn't.

3. The third thing which is very basic to the Chinese mind is tradition.  The Chinese are one of the most tradition-conscious peoples, and therefore they keep the traditions of the past.  Up until the coming of communism, the Chinese were doing things which they had been doing all the way back to Confucius; and Confucius said they were doing these things all the way back to the third millennium B.C.  Their veneration for their ancestors and graveyards, and their sacrifices: this is the way they lived.  The whole outlook on life remained basically the same, and whenever there was a dispute, they would appeal to antiquity.  "This is the way it was done in ancient times; we can't change it."  If Christianity could have managed to get inside this tradition somehow and become a part of it, it would have worked, for the soul of the Chinese people would have been very well disposed to it.

4. There is another basic aspect of the Chinese tradition which is shared by many other traditions.  That's the fact that the whole Chinese tradition is one.  There is a oneness of tradition, whether it is expressed in different forms.  Scholars, of course, like to take things apart, and therefore they say that in China there are all kinds of different philosophies: Confucianism, Taoism, ancestor worship, worship of gods and spirits, as well as other various philosophies.  My teacher [Gi-ming], however, was very insistent that it is all one.  In fact, there is a very strong idea in the Chinese mind of orthodoxy, with a small "o": that there is a right teaching, and that the whole of society depends upon that right teaching.  This right teaching is expressed in different forms.  My teacher made it quite clear that Taoism is the esoteric side, and Confucianism is the more social side.  Taoism has to do with spiritual life, and Confucianism with social, public life.

5. The fifth point is that in the center of this one orthodox tradition is the Emperor.  China without an emperor is like an animal with its head cut off.  From the very beginning there was always the Emperor.  He was the upholder of the orthodoxy, of the tradition.  In fact, the Chinese had the idea that the Emperor was a cosmic figure around whom the world revolved.  According to tradition, the Emperor faces south; he is to the north of everything, and the whole world revolves around him.  (In the Old Testament there is a similar idea: Isaiah 14:31 mentions that God is from the north.)  The Emperor doesn't have to move himself, he only points and everyone does things for him; and thus the whole world is put in order. 

In Chinese piety, then, the Emperor occupies a unique place.  In Russia and Byzantium, the name of the Emperor was always written in upper case letters.  You can see this in the service books of pre-revolutionary Russia.  The same thing was in China.  Whenever the Emperor is mentioned, you have to begin a line with his name.  When you come to the middle of a line and come to name of the Emperor, you have to go back to the beginning, even above the margin, to begin with him because he is the central human figure.  Such was the intense respect with which he was regarded. 

At one time I was thinking that if I ever got my doctor's degree in Chinese literature, I was going to write a paper comparing the Byzantine Emperor with the Chinese Emperor.  There are many similarities.  In both Byzantine and Chinese society, the Emperor is to be the guardian of orthodoxy. 

Because of the central place of the Emperor in Chinese society, a big clash occurred in the 17th century, when the Empetor Kang-shi was presented with Jesuit missionaries.  The Jesuits had become trusted in China because they knew science.  At that time the Chinese calendar, which had been based on poor mathematics, was all in pieces, so the Chinese had to have the Jesuits calculate when the year would begin and so forth.  In this way they rose to a high position in the court. 

The dispute arose when the Jesuits began to go to the cemeteries of the ancestors.  In these cemeteries, each family had a chapel where their ancestors were buried, and in the chapels they had little tablets.  The Jesuits censed these tablets and said some kind of prayers in front of them, saying that this was only a social rite and not a religious rite, and the Emperor agreed.  Then someone sent complaints to Rome, and the Pope proclaimed that these were religious rites and could not be performed.  When the Chinese Emperor heard this, he was enraged that a foreign devil would dare to dictate what was what, when he had already declared that they were not religious rites and that the Jesuits could perform them.  That was the beginning of the end for the Jesuits; they were kicked out and lost their chance.  That all occurred in the 17th century, up to the middle of it.

6. There is one more basic aspect of the Chinese mind, and that is their intense awareness of social relationships.  In the West during the time of Confucius, there were Plato and Socrates, who could talk about abstract things like beaury and love and so forth without particularly referring to the human relationships.  But in the philosophy of Confucius, these things are never spoken of in the abstract; they are bound up with how you relate to your father, mother, older brother, younger brother, elders, youngers, etc.  There is a whole hierarchy, and everyone exists in this hierarchy.  If you want to order society well, you begin with your father, with your son, with your brothers and your family, with your less immediate family, with the village and the province, with the prince (in the time of Confucius the people were divided into princedoms), and finally to the Emperor over them all, and thereby to Heaven itself.  These, then, are the basic qualities of the Chinese mind.


Chinese language is interesting in that it seems to be totally distinct from the Western languages.  Scholars are trying to find common word groups; they study Slavonic, Greek, Sanskrit and all the Western languages of Germanic and Latin origin, and they find that they all have common roots.   Sometimes one can see that very distinct Sanskrit words are used today in Russian or English.  But in China the roots seem to be totally different.  They seem to be related to Tibetan and that's about all.  Japanese seems to be totally different, also.  It's closer to Turkish than to Chinese.  So as far as the linguistics are concerned, the pronunciation of the Chinese language also has a totally different basis.  Therefore, if one could trace back to common roots, one would have to go back far beyond the earliest age we know. 

The Chinese written language is a system which was originally like Egyptian hieroglyphics: a picture language.  Since many words cannot be depicted in pictures, however, the Chinese from the very beginning had to develop a way of expressing concepts through pictures, and they had an ingenious way of doing this.  A certain picture usually became associated with a certain sound.  For example, the word for tree was emu; if you had some other word which had a similar pronunciation, you might use that same picture of a tree to express that sound.  Later on, towards the time of Confucius and even later, they developed a whole system wherein there are two elements to a word: one is the way it is pronounced and the other is what it means. 

The word for "man" is just a man with two legs (that is how it looks in modern times).  If you put a stroke at the top of it, you get a man with his full arms outstretched: that means "big."  And if you put a stroke on top of that, that means what is above man, which is "Heaven."  All these words are all pronounced different ways, but when you try to find them in the dictionary, you've got to look under "man" each time. 

The word for "harmony," tom, is a picture of a box with no bottom, and inside there is a little square. That little square is the word for mouth (if you look at ancient pictures it looks just like a little mouth).  From this we know that the meaning of the word has something to do with a mouth – that is, with people speaking in harmony.  The outer box has to do with the way it is pronounced, because the word for "mouth" has a totally different pronunciation. 

Of course you are supposed to write these Chinese characters with a brush, which makes the strokes of different thicknesses.  There is a whole elegant system. 

The Chinese also developed dictionaries very early.  Here is a dictionary from 100 A.D.  It is arranged according to a system of so-called radicals.  The first word in the dictionary has one stroke: it's the word "one."  Every other word that has to do with oneness or has that stroke in it will be found under that.  Then the second radical, and so on.  You increase the number of strokes until you finally come to the biggest words, like "dragon," "horse," "fish," "scorpion" and "tortoise," which have twenty or thirty strokes.  It's just as fast as an alphabet once you get used to it.

Because of their poetry, the Chinese very early developed a whole system of rhymes.  That is how we can reconstruct the ancient pronunciation of Chinese: because they had a library with tables and rhymes and initial letters.  There are rhyming dictionaries which date from about 500-600 A.D. 

The earliest Chinese language that has come down to us is a very concise language, which expresses a great deal in a few words.  In fact one of my Chinese professors said that Chinese is the most advanced language because it has no grammar whatsoever.  That is, there are no declensions, conjugations, or tenses.  There are not different forms of the same word, with one or two little exceptions (for example, there is a word for "I" and another for "me" in the ancient language).  There is not even any difference between verbs and nouns.  Often you tell if it is a verb or noun by the way it is used in the sentence, because everything depends upon word order.  The first word would be the subject, the second word the verb, and the third word the object.  Often the subject does not have to be used, nor the object, and thus often you have just one word: you have to get the whole meaning from that one word.  Of course, there is a context from which you can tell what it means.


The Chinese written texts that have been preserved to this day go back to the time of Confucius(2) or a little before.  All the great philosophers were in that period, the 5th century B.C.  We will speak about the greatest of them: Lao Tzu and Confucius.

First we will look at the book of Lao Tzu, called the Tao Teh Ching.  This is a deep philosophy.  It is a tiny book which is very profound – so profound you can get lost.  The first line of that book begins with the word Tao, which means "Path."  Lao Tzu used this as the central part of his philosophy, as in the West they used Logos.  The center of the universe is Tao, the path of life.

The book begins by saying:

Tao, which could either mean "path" or the verb "to path";
    Kuh, which means "can"; 
Fe, which means "not";
    Ch'ang, which means "constant"; 

This comes out to read: "Tao can Tao no constant Tao."  How do you interpret it?  It is a baffling thing because you can interpret it all kinds of different ways.  We have a basic verb here, kuh ("can"), and the verb "can" must take a verb after it.  Therefore the word that comes after kuh, which is tao, must be a verb; and the word that comes before kuh, which is also Tao, must be a noun, the subject of the sentence.  Thus the sentence says something like: "The Tao that can be Taoed is not a constant Tao."  Usually it is translated: "The Tao that can be travelled on, or the Tao that can be expressed as a Tao, or the Tao that is taoable, is not a constant."  Or else: "The Tao (path) upon which you can walk is not a constant path."  This is something that you just let yourself go into, and you do not define it.

Here, of course, Lao Tzu is using a paradox.  He does this in many other places, such as: "He that knows does not speak; he that speaks does not know," and: "How do I know this? by this!"  In another place he writes: "Thirty spokes join in a single hub; it is the center hole that makes the wheel useful."  Is it the spokes that make the wheel turn?  No, it's the empty place in the middle.  Without that there won't be any going – there will be spokes lying on the ground doing nothing.  It is due to the empty space that they go.  Although some people think Lao Tzu's philosophy is very mystical, I think it is more on a natural level.  The language is not vague; it is actually very precise.  He deliberately uses these images and appears vague because he wants to convey something that is not a precise, defined teaching.  In interpreting texts like the Tao Teh Ching, the Chinese say you must first of all go to the commentaries, then you must have a teacher who is supposed to teach you these things.  They are very intent on this: you have to have it personally given to you by your teacher.  They do not accept the idea of just reading in books; you have books, but only the teacher can give you the teachings in the books.

Now let us look at the teachings of Confucius:(3)

"The Master said, 'Father is present, look at his will'"  What Confucius is referring to here is not the father but the son.  When the father is alive, look at how the son obeys him and puts his will to him, how the bent of his will is.  Therefore, this line can be translated as: "When a man's father is alive, look at the bent of the man's will."

The next line reads: "Father dead, look at his conduct."  This means that when the father is dead, look at the conduct of his son.

    "Three years, no change in Father's tao can be called filial period."  In other words, if for three years the man shows no change from the way of his father, he can be called filial.  That means he is faithful to his father.  To Confucius, filial piety is a basic thing: you must be faithful to your father.

Here is another saying, a famous one:

"Master said, 'Ten and five, and will on learning.'''  This means, "When I was fifteen years old I had my will set on learning."

"Three, ten, and stand."  In other words, "Having come to the age of thirty, I stood firm."  That means he's set for life.  He has his basic position at thirty years old.

"Four, ten, and no doubt."  That is, "At the age of forty I didn't doubt, I had no more doubts."

"Fifty, and know heaven decree."  That is, "At the age of fifty, I knew the will of heaven."

"Sixty, and ear obedient."  It is implied here that his ear is obedient to listen to what heaven says to him.

    "Seventy, and follow heart what desires, not transgressing the right."  That is, "When I was seventy, I followed the desire of my heart, not transgressing what is right."  In other words, he reached perfection.  Whatever he desired was already the will of heaven.

Someone asked Confucius, "What is filial piety?"  And his answer was: "Parents are anxious lest their children should be sick."  Apparently what this means is that since your parents take care of you and love you so much when you are sick, you must pay respect to them.  That's the implication.

    Someone else asked about filial piety, and the master said, ''The filial piety of today means the support of one's parents, but dogs and horses are likewise able to do something in the way of support."  In other words, just offering support is not necessarily human.  Without reverence, what is there to distinguish the one support from the other?  So there must not just be supporting the parents, but also reverence. 

Here Confucius is teaching basic love.

    "The master said, 'If a man keeps cherishing his old knowledge so as continually to be acquiring new, he may be a teacher of others.'''  This is the sign of a person who really loves knowledge: he is constantly getting something new, not just peddling what is old; and thus he can teach others. 

Confucius also has the concept of the princely man.  Someone asked him, "What is the princely man?"  The master said, "He acts before he speaks and afterwards speaks according to his actions."  That is, he acts already knowing.  He doesn't stop to think, to calculate.

"The master said, 'Learning without thought is labor lost.  Thought without learning is perilous.'''  That is, if you learn lots of things without any particular point of view, it is a waste of time.  "Learning without thought" means learning without reflecting on and absorbing what you learn.  "Thought without learning is perilous": this means you have to have solid discipline, solid teaching.

"The master said, 'The study of strange doctrines is injurious indeed.'''  That is, just learn orthodox doctrines.

    Someone asked him, "What is knowledge?" and the master said, "Shall I teach you what knowledge is?  When you know a thing, hold that you know it.  When you do not know a thing, allow that you do not know it.  This is knowledge" – i.e., the basis of knowledge.

    There are four books of Confucius' teachings, about telling the truth, being honest, loving your relatives, being obedient, and so on.  In giving his teachings, Confucius was constantly quoting from the ancient books, the basic texts of ancient times.  One of these was a book of poetry, like the Psalms, expressing the people's feelings – it dated back to about the time of King David the Prophet [ca. 1000 B.C.].  Another was a book of history which contained all the annals of the dynasties; another was a book of rituals; and there were a few others.

(QUESTION)  Was there anything in his teaching that was really contrary to Christianity?

(ANSWER)  Well, he took part, I think, in sacrifices, which were part of the Chinese system right up to the end.  But he was against even the remnants of human sacrifices.  In his day, there was the custom of putting little clay figures in a tomb whenever a prince died.(4)  This was the remnant of the ancient human sacrifices that had totally died out by Confucius' time, but Confucius was against continuing even that practice.  He was against it because it was contrary to "human-heartedness," which is one of the basic Chinese concepts.  (The word is made with the characters for "man" and "heart" together.) 

So, apart from the fact that he took part in the sacrifices of his times, I don't think there is anything that would not be acceptable in Christianity.  His teaching is basic morality.  It is very similar to Socrates.  Just be upright, honest, doing what is right, following your conscience, dying for the truth if you have to.

    Confucius himself was a minor official, in charge of the grain in a little province.  Once someone came to him and offered him a bribe, saying, "No one will know."  But Confucius said, "I know, you know, heaven knows.  Who doesn't know?"

So, his is basically a very human teaching.  He talked about the sacrifices but he did not have much of a religious outlook.  He never talked about any gods; he only talked about heaven.  For him it was a very personal kind of thing.  One of his disciples wished to do away with the offering of a sheep, which was connected with the inauguration of the first day of each month.  (In the Greek Church, every month they have the blessing of water; in China, every month they sacrificed a sheep.)  And the master said, "Sir, you love the sheep; I love the ceremony.  Let the sheep be slaughtered."

    In Confucius, there is also the concept of propriety, doing what is proper in every situation in society.  Of course, later on this became very stereotyped in China: you always had to know exactly when to bow down and offer your hand and so forth.  In that respect, it turned into a system in which emotion was not outwardly expressed much; emotions were considered very personal.  But that was in the later epochs; earlier it was not like that. Confucius says that from music you can tell what the people are thinking.  You can listen to the music and tell whether it is a corrupt people or a virtuous people.

(QUESTION)  What about Chinese music?

    (ANSWER)  I don't know much about Chinese music.  It sounds very profound.  Just a few sounds are supposed to express some deep emotion.  You have to get really used to it before you can understand it.  Back in the time of Confucius, there was a whole classical tradition of music, usually with dance, connected with the royal court.

Confucius had a successor in the 4th century B.C., Mencius; and Lao Tzu also had a successor, Chuang Tzu, who lived at the same time as Mencius.  These men continued the same teachings.


Chinese history is divided into dynasties.  The most ancient dynasty goes back to 2300 B.C.  It is called the Hsia dynasty.  That was the time when there were supposed to be actual philosopher kings.  It was one of the dynasties to which Confucius looked as having ideal rulers.  With the Hsia dynasty begins the hereditary succession, and from that time there came the various dynasties.  Before that there were just virtuous men ruling, supposedly: one would be picked by the previous one to rule.

There were only three dynasties in the B.C. era: the Hsia (ca. 2300-1700 B.C.), the Shang (ca. 1700-1100 B.C.), and the Chou (pronounced "Jo," ca. 1100-200 B.C.).

    We do not know much about the early period: the Hsia and Shang dynasties.  The people of that time had no connection with outside people, and the annals are very sparse.  There was not much central authority; there was one king in charge, but he was a kind of figurehead.  Today, this age is noted mainly for its sacrificial art: its bronzes used in sacrifices.  Many of these are preserved today in the Grundage collection in the de Young Museum in San Francisco, which is one of the best collections of Chinese art.  There are several basic kinds of vessels, used to hold grain, wine, etc.

With the next dynasty, the Chou dynasty, the age of philosophy and literature begins: Confucius, Lao Tzu.  During this time the whole state fell to pieces.  It ended up that there was no king at all, just petty princes; and these princes were constantly fighting each other in the last period of the dynasty, around Confucius' time.

At the end of this period, 200 B.C., there came a famous man called Shih Huang Ti, otherwise known as the First Emperor.  With him came the Ch'in dynasty, which only lasted for about fifteen years.  He was the one who unified the countty: he went about and killed off all the other princes and took over the whole land.  Then he began to worship himself, and to seek for the elixir of life.  (This was a constant theme among superstitious emperors in China-they were always looking for a sorcerer who could give them a potion that would make them live forever.)  He finally died because of this, when he was poisoned in trying to drink something that would make him live forever.  He had figured that he would live forever and that his kingdom would last 10,000 years.  He felt jealous of Confucius, because Confucius had been dead for over two hundred years and was still accepted as an authority.  It was
generally believed then that from Confucius comes the ancient tradition: if you are faithful to Confucius you will be in harmony with ancient times.  Shih Huang Ti could not stand this because he wanted himself to be the authority.  Therefore he ordered that all texts be burned.  This was the famous "bookburning," in which all the Confucian texts and all the ancient documents were taken out to a big bonfire and burned.  There would be nothing left of ancient culture: only he would survive, and he would dictate the future of China.  (That's where the name China comes from, from his dynasty-the Ch'in.)  Together with all the texts, he burned the scholars or buried them alive in order to get rid of the old tradition.  If his dynasty had survived, we might not have those old texts; but he died in a very short time and left no successor.  A very vicious eunuch of his court tried to take over but he had no support, and finally the Han dynasty came in.

    The Han dynastery lasted from 200 B.C. to 200 A.D., and is famous for its art.  It is divided into two periods: the early Han and the late Han.  Then came the period from 200 to 600 A.D., which was a time of petty kingdoms or warring states, just like in the West: barbarian kingdoms, all divided up, with no central government.  Then from about 600 to 900 A.D. was the T'ang dynasty-another dynasty famous for its art; and from about 900 to 1200 A.D. was the Sung dynasty.  After that there was an interlude from 1200 to 1300 A.D.: the Mongol dynasty.  Then from 1300 to 1600 A.D. was the Ming dynasty, known for its porcelain.  The last emperor of this dynasty was called Constantine.  By the time he became baptized Catholic, the dynasty was lost.  The last dynasty was the Manchu dynasty, from 1600 to 1900 A.D. 

Almost all the dynasties lasted about 300 years-that is the normal age for a dynasty.  A new person comes in fresh, reorganizes everything, and then it becomes decadent and is conquered by someone else.

    (QUESTION)  Were there any philosophers before the time of Confucius and Lao Tzu?

(ANSWER)  There were no philosophers, but just the ancient texts we mentioned earlier: the book of poetry, the book of ancient rituals, the book of history, etc.  It was the same in Greece.  This is an interesting fact, because Greece was a country totally independent of China, but philosophy began there at about the same time as in China.  The first of the Greek philosophers – Thales and so forth-lived about the 6th century B.C., just about the time Confucius was in China and Buddha in India.

(QUESTION)  What were the differences between ancient Chinese and ancient Greek philosophy?

    (ANSWER)  The early Greek philosophers were all trying to find out what the universe was made of, what was the ultimate element.  They were asking abstract questions like that back then, whereas the Chinese philosophers were simply giving a teaching on life.  That's one little difference.  The Chinese did not speculate about where everything came from, whether fire or water was the original element.  They were concerned with how we are to behave towards each other.  They accepted the tradition, which went back to the remotest antiquity; and they did not ask too much about where it all comes from.

End Notes 
1) For more about these classes which Fr. Seraphim gave to youth, see the chapter "Forming Young Souls" in Not of This World, pp. 894-909.-ED. 
2) "Confucius" is the Latin form. His name is actually pronounced Con-ft-dze. Likewise, "Mencius" is pronounced Mung-dze. 
3) In the first passages he quotes from Confucius, as in the passage from the Tao Teh Ching quoted above, Fr. Seraphim is translating directly and extemporaneously from the ancient Chinese characters. 
4) In fact, they just discovered such tombs in China.  After Confucius' time there was a famous emperor: the "First Emperor of China" he was called. He had buried with him a whole army of life-sized ceramic figures, with horses, weapons and warriors in all their costumes.