06 April 2011
The Orthodox Way of Life and the Modern World
In former centuries – for example, in 19th century Russia – an Orthodox worldview was part of the Orthodox way of life and was supported by the surrounding environment. There was no need even to speak of it as of something separate – everyone lived in an Orthodox manner in accordance with the surrounding Orthodox society. In many countries the governments themselves confessed Orthodoxy; it was the center of social reality, and historically the Tsar or the ruler was the principal Orthodox layman, whose responsibility it was to provide an example of Christian life to his subjects. There were Orthodox churches in each city, and in many of them services were held daily, morning and evening. There were monasteries in all the major cities, in many smaller ones, outside the cities, in the villages, in remote and uninhabited places. In Russia there were over a thousand officially registered monasteries, not counting other monastic communities. Monasticism was a universally acknowledged part of life. In truth, in most families someone – a sister or a brother, an uncle, a grandfather, a relative, – was a monk or nun, not to mention other representatives of Orthodox life – wanderers and fools-for-Christ. The entire way of life was permeated by Orthodoxy, the core of which was monasticism. Orthodox customs were part of everyday life. The majority of widely read books were Orthodox. For the majority of people daily life itself was burdensome; they had to work hard in order to subsist, hopes for longevity were not high, early death was not a rarity, – and all of this strengthened Christ’s teaching on the reality and nearness of the next world. Under these circumstances an Orthodox way of life was synonymous with having an Orthodox worldview, and there was little need to speak of it.
Now everything has changed. Our Orthodoxy is an island in a world that is living according to totally different principles, and each day these principles change for the worse, alienate us more and more. Many people become subjected to the temptation of dividing their life into two categories: daily life at work, with worldly friends, engaged in worldly affairs, and Orthodoxy, which we live on Sundays and holidays, or whenever we find time for it. But if we look more closely, the worldview of such a person represents an odd mixture of Christian and worldly values that in reality do not mix. The aim of this lecture is to show how people living today can begin to make their worldview more precious, to make it wholly Orthodox.
Orthodoxy is life. If we do not live in an Orthodox manner, we are simply not Orthodox, irrespective of whether we formally belong to this religion or not.
Life in our modern world has become quite artificial, quite vague, quite confused. Orthodoxy has its own life, but it is not too remote from the life of the surrounding world, so that the life of an Orthodox Christian, even when he is genuinely Orthodox, cannot but reflect it in one way or another. A certain vagueness and confusion have now penetrated even into Orthodox life. Let us try to look at our modern life, in order to see how we could best fulfill our Christian responsibilities, lead a life not of this world, even in these terrible times, and have an Orthodox view of contemporary life that will allow us to survive in these times and retain the integrity of our faith.
Life today has become abnormal
Anyone who looks at our modern life from the perspective of the normal life that people led in former times – for example, in Russia, or in America, or in any Western European country, – cannot but be amazed at how insane life has now become. All concept of authority and obedience, decency and politeness, behavior in society and in private life – all has changed abruptly, has become turned upside down, with the exception of several individual groups – usually Christians of one confession or another, who are trying to retain a so-called “old-fashioned” way of life.
Our abnormal life today may also be characterized as spoiled and capricious. From infancy every contemporary child is treated as a family idol: his whims are catered to, desires are satisfied, he is surrounded by toys, amusements, conveniences; he is not taught and brought up in accordance with the strict principles of Christian behavior, but allowed to develop in any direction in which his desires are inclined. It is usually enough for him to say “I want” or “I do not want,” for his parents to kowtow to him and allow him to do as he wishes. This does not happen in all families and all the time, of course, but it happens frequently enough to become the rule of modern childrearing, and even parents with the best of intentions cannot entirely escape this influence. Even if the parents themselves try to rear the child strictly, his neighbors or his teachers at school try to do something else. This should be taken into account when bringing up a child.
When such a person grows up, he will naturally surround himself with the same things to which he has become accustomed from childhood: conveniences, amusements, toys for adults. Such a life becomes a constant search for “fun,” and this word, by the way, was absolutely unheard of in any other dictionary; in 19th century Russia or in any other serious civilization people simply would not have understood what this word means. Current life is a continuous search for “fun,” which is so lacking in serious meaning that a visitor from any other 19th-century country, looking at our popular TV programs, amusement parks, advertising, movies, music, or almost any other aspect of our modern culture, – would think that he had arrived in a land of madmen who have lost all touch with daily reality. We often do not take this into account, since we live in this society and take it for granted.
Several recent social researchers into our contemporary life have called the youth of today – the “me” generation, and our times – “the age of narcissism,” characterized by self-veneration and self-adoration that interfere with the development of normal human life. Others speak of our “plastic” universe or of the world of fantasy in which such a huge number of people live today, unable to face the reality of the surrounding world, or to cope with it and with their internal problems.
When the “me” generation turns to religion, which often happens in this decade, this is manifested in a fantastic form of a religion of “self-development” (where the “I” remains the object of veneration), brainwashing and mind control, deified gurus or swamis, a search for UFOs and extraterrestrials, and abnormal spiritual states and experiences. We will not examine these manifestations, since they are probably well-known to most of us, but we will explore the way they impact upon the Orthodox Christian spiritual life of our times.
It is very important for us to realize, as we try to lead a Christian life today, that the world created by our capricious times is presenting demands upon our soul – be it in religion or in worldly life – that are actually totalitarian. This can easily be seen in the soul-warping cults that have become so widespread in recent years and which demand submission to a self-proclaimed “saint”; but it is just as obvious in our worldly life, when a person does not only encounter an individual temptation here or there, but is subjected to a continuous state of temptation, be it in the form of the background music that is heard everywhere – in shops and in offices, or in the form of rock music, which reaches even into forest paths and nature camps, or at home, where television often becomes our covert manager, dictating modern values, opinions, tastes. If you have small children, you know how true this is; if they have seen something on TV, it is extremely difficult to later fight against this new opinion, which had been presented by television as an authoritative one.
The import of this all-encompassing temptation which lures people today (quite openly in its lay form and usually more covertly in religious forms) is as follows: live only for today, enjoy yourself, relax, feel great. Behind this reasoning one can hear another, more menacing overtone, which sounds openly only in officially atheist countries, which in this regard are a step ahead of the free world. In truth, we must realize that what is happening to the world today is the same everywhere – be it behind the Iron Curtain or in the free world. There are various versions of it, but the attacks that are aimed at conquering our souls are very similar. In Communist countries, which officially espouse the doctrine of atheism, it is said quite openly: forget God and any other kind of life except the present one, dismiss from your soul all fear of God and veneration of sacred objects, look upon all those who still believe in God in the old-fashioned way as enemies that must be destroyed. As a symbol of our carefree, fun-seeking, and self-deceiving times we could use our American Disneyland, but we should not miss the more sinister symbol behind it, which shows in which direction the “me” generation is really moving: towards the Soviet Gulag, that chain of concentration camps which is already ruling the lives of almost half of the world’s population.
Two false approaches to spiritual life
But one may well ask: what does all this have to do with us who are trying to lead a sober Orthodox Christian life to the extent possible? A great deal! We should realize that the life around us, no matter how abnormal it may be, is the very place from which we begin our own Christian life. Whatever we make of our lives, however much we fill it with genuine Christian content, is still bears a certain imprint of the “me” generation, and we must be humble enough to acknowledge it. So let us begin from there.
There are two false approaches to the life around us that many people accept, thinking that that is the example of how Orthodox Christians should conduct themselves. One approach, the most widely-accepted, is simply to go along with the times: to adapt to rock music, contemporary fashions and tastes, and the entire rhythm of our modern life. Often the more old-fashioned parents have little to do with this life and live more or less their own separate lives, but they will smile as they watch their children follow all the latest crazes and think it quite harmless. Such a path is a complete disaster for Christian life; it is death for the soul. Some people many continue to outwardly lead a decent life without fighting against the spirit of the times, but inwardly they are dead or dying, and saddest of all is that their children will pay for it by various psychological and spiritual breakdowns and illnesses, which are spreading more and more. For example, one of the leaders of the cult of suicides who so effectively ended their existence in Jonestown (in 1976) was the young daughter of a Greek Orthodox priest. Although the majority of Orthodox youth do not go so far, they nevertheless merge with their surrounding anti-Christian world and cease being an example of even the least bit of Christianity for those around them.
That is unacceptable! A Christian should differ from the surrounding world, and this is one of the basic things he should assimilate as part of his Christian upbringing. Otherwise there is no sense in calling oneself Christian, especially Orthodox Christian.
The false approach at the other extreme is one that may be called false spirituality. As translations of Orthodox books on spiritual life become more and more accessible, and Orthodox terminology on spiritual warfare proliferates, an ever greater number of people talk of hesychasm (contemplative prayer), the Jesus prayer, ascetic life, sublime states of prayer, and of the most contemplative holy fathers, such as Saints Simeon the New Theologian, Gregory Palamas, or Gregory the Sinaite. It is good to know about this truly sublime side of Orthodox spiritual life and to venerate the great saints who actually led such a life; however, if we do not come to a very realistic and very humble realization of how far we all are from the life of the hesychasts and how little we are prepared to even come near it, our interest in it will only be yet another manifestation of our egocentric plastic world.
Nowadays there are very popular books on this subject. In fact, under Orthodox influence the Catholics themselves are actively engaged in these issues and are, in turn, influencing the Orthodox. For example, the Jesuit priest Father George Maloney writes books on these subjects and translates the works of Saints Macarius the Great and Simeon the New Theologian, and tries to encourage people to be hesychasts in their daily life. They practice all kinds of “retreats,” usually “charismatic” ones; the people are (supposedly) inspired by the Holy Spirit and try all forms of asceticism, of which we know from the holy fathers and which stand far above the level on which we find ourselves today. There is a certain woman, Catherine de Hueck Doherty (she was originally born in Russia and later became Roman Catholic), who writes books such as “Desert,” “Silence,” and about all the things she would like to introduce into life, in a manner as though she is advertising new candy. This, of course, totally lacks seriousness and bears the tragic sign of our times. Elevated concepts are being used by people who have no idea of what they are talking about. For some this has simply become a habit or a pastime; for others, who treat this seriously, it can turn into a tragedy. They think they are leading a sublime life, while in fact they have been unable to resolve their own inner problems.
Once again I would like to stress that we must avoid both these extremes – worldliness and superspirituality, but this does not mean that we should not have a realistic appreciation of the lawful demands that the world makes upon us, nor should we cease venerating the great fathers of hesychasm and using their wise instructions or applying ourselves to the Jesus prayer in accordance with our circumstances and possibilities. We should only be doing this at our current, more down-to-earth level. The fact is (and this is absolutely essential to our under standing of it as Orthodox Christians) that we must have a profound realization of the kind of times we are living in, how little we really know and feel our Orthodoxy, how far we are not only from the saints of antiquity, but even from the simple Orthodox Christians who lived a hundred years ago or even a generation ago, and how strongly we must strive just to survive today as Orthodox Christians.
What can we do?
More specifically, what can we do to gain this realization, this understanding of true Orthodoxy, and how can we make it bear fruit in our life? Let us attempt to provide an answer to this question in two parts: the first deals with the proper comprehension of our surrounding world, which has become, as never before in the history of Christianity, our conscious enemy, and the second – with our comprehension of Orthodoxy, which the majority of us know much less than we ought to, much less than we should know if we wish to preserve it.
First of all, since we are living in this world whether we want to or not (and its influence is strongly felt even in the remotest places and monasteries), we must look upon it and its temptations firmly and realistically, but not give in to it; in particular, we must prepare our young people for the temptations that will face them, and we must inoculate them against these temptations. Every day we must be prepared to respond to the influence of the world with the principles of a healthy Christian upbringing. This means that everything a child learns in school must be checked and corrected at home. We should never think that what the child learns in school is just useful or worldly and bears no relation to his Orthodox upbringing. He can be taught many useful trades and facts (although many of today’s schools are failing shamefully in that, too; teachers tell us that all that they are able to do is maintain some order in class, and that there is no question of doing any teaching), but even if the child acquires this knowledge, he is taught many wrong viewpoints and ideas. The child’s basic attitude towards and evaluation of literature, music, history, art, philosophy, science, and of course life and religion should not come from the school, because at school you will get all of this mixed in with modern philosophy; this should primarily come from the home and church, else he will receive a fallacious education in today’s world, where public education is at best agnostic in nature, and at worst – atheistic or antireligious. Parents should be precisely aware of what their children are being taught in various general education courses that are widespread in today’s schools, and correct it at home, not only being quite open on this issue (especially between fathers and sons, which is quite rare in society nowadays), but also highlighting its moral aspect, which is completely lacking in public education.
Parents should know what kind of music their children are listening to, what kind of films they are watching (listening or watching together with them if need be), what kind of language they are hearing and what kind of language they are using themselves, and evaluate all of this from a Christian viewpoint. There should be even stricter control over television, making sure to avoid the poisonous influence of this machine, which has become the primary teacher of antichristian values and ideas in one’s very home, especially among young people.
It is specifically in the upbringing of children that the world strikes at Orthodox Christians and rears the children according to its own pattern; as soon as the child develops an erroneous attitude, the task of his Christian upbringing becomes twice as difficult.
However, it is not only the children but likewise all of us who face the world that is trying to make us antichrist’s through the schools, television, movies, popular music, and all the other means that overwhelm us, especially in big cities. We must understand that everything that is dinned into us comes from a single source – it has a definite rhythm, a definite ideological content: it is the idea of self-adoration, relaxation, nonchalance, enjoyment, refusal to have the least thought of the other world. This idea is imposed upon us in various forms. It is essentially a training in godlessness. We must actively defend ourselves, knowing precisely what the world is trying to do to us, defending ourselves by means such as formulation and proclamation of our Orthodox Christian response to it. In all honesty, watching how Orthodox families live in today’s world and pass on their Orthodoxy, it may seem that this battle is more often lost than won. The number of Orthodox Christians who preserve their religious face intact and do not change with the modern world is very small indeed.
At the same time we should not regard our surrounding world to be all bad. Actually, in order to preserve ourselves as Orthodox Christians, we must be reasonable enough to use for our own purposes all that is positive in this world. Let us look at various points which we can use in the interests of our Orthodox worldview, although they have no direct relation to Orthodoxy.
A child who from a tender age has been exposed to good classical music, whose soul developed under its influence, does not fall prey to the temptations of the vulgar rhythm of rock and other forms of contemporary pseudo-music to the extent to which does a child who grew up without any musical education. According to some Optina elders, such a musical education purifies the heart and prepares it for the reception of spiritual impressions.
A child who is accustomed to good literature, drama, and poetry, and who has felt their influence upon his soul, i.e. who has received genuine pleasure from it, will not so easily became a fan of modern television and cheap novels, which desiccate the soul and lead it away from the Christian path.
A child who has learned to see the beauty of classical art and sculpture will not be easily ensnared by the distortion of modern art and will not be attracted by the tasteless products of modern advertising and by pornography.
A child who knows something of world history, especially of Christian times, of how people lived and thought, of what errors and snares they fell into by abandoning God and His commandments, and of the glorious life they led when they remained faithful to Him, will be able to judge more wisely about the life and philosophy of our times and will not blindly follow the very first school of philosophy or way of life he encounters. One of the problems facing education in today’s schools is that children are no longer inculcated with a sense of history. This means that the child is deprived of the possibility of taking an example from the people who had lived in the past. Meanwhile, history essentially repeats itself. When you realize this, you want to know how people resolved their problems, what happened to those who rebelled against God and to those who changed their life, presenting a vivid example that has endured until our times. It is very important to have a sense of history, and it should be cultivated in children.
In general, a person who is well-acquainted with the best fruits of world culture – which in the West almost always had a definite religious and Christian context, – acquires many more opportunities to lead the normal fruitful life of an Orthodox Christian than someone who converted to Orthodoxy while being acquainted only with contemporary popular culture. The one who converted to Orthodoxy straight from “rock” and, in general, anyone who thinks he can combine Orthodoxy with popular culture will have to go through much suffering before he can become a truly serious Orthodox Christian who is able to pass on his faith to others. Without suffering, without this realization, Orthodox parents will bring up children who will be devoured by the modern world. The best of world culture, properly assimilated, purifies and develops the soul; today’s popular culture mars and deforms souls and prevents them from reacting appropriately to the call of Orthodoxy.
Therefore, in our battle against the spirit of the world, we may use the best that the world has to offer, in order to go beyond this best; everything that is best in the world, if only we have enough wisdom to see it, points towards God and Orthodoxy, and it is up to us to make use of it.
An Orthodox worldview
By adopting such a position – seeing all the good that is in the world, as well as the bad, – we will be able to acquire an Orthodox worldview, i.e. we will live with an Orthodox viewpoint on life entire and not only on strictly church issues. There exists an erroneous opinion which, unfortunately, has currently become too widespread, that it is enough to possess an Orthodoxy limited to the church building and to “normal” Orthodox activities, such as praying at set times or crossing oneself; as for the rest, according to this opinion, one can live like all the others, participating in the life and culture of our times without any problem, as long as we do not sin.
Everyone who has understood how profound Orthodoxy is and how profound are the responsibilities of a serious Orthodox Christian, and has also realized what kind of responsibilities, even totalitarian demands, are being placed upon us by the modern world, easily sees how mistaken is such an opinion. Either you are Orthodox at any time of any day in any situation of life, or you are not Orthodox at all. Our Orthodoxy is revealed not only in our strictly religious views, but in everything we do and say. The majority of us do not even realize the Orthodox responsibility that we bear for the worldly side of our life. On the other hand, a person with a genuine Orthodox worldview lives all the facets of his life in an Orthodox manner.
Let us, therefore, ask at this point: how can we, in our everyday life, nourish and maintain an Orthodox worldview?
The first and most obvious way is to be in continuous contact with the source of Christian nourishment, with everything the Church gives us for our enlightenment and salvation: the church services and the holy Sacraments, the Holy Scriptures, the lives of the saints, the writings of the Holy Fathers. One should naturally read the books that are on one’s level of understanding, and to adapt the teaching of the Church to one’s own life situations and circumstances, so that they would be fruitful, directing and changing us in a Christian manner.
But often these basic Christian sources do not have the requisite effect on us or have no effect whatsoever, because we do not take up the correct Christian position toward them and toward the Christian life which they should inspire. Let us try to understand what our position should be, if we wish to get true benefit from them, and if they are to become for us the beginning of a genuine Orthodox worldview.
First of all, Christian spiritual nourishment is essentially inspirational and beneficial; if our attitude towards it is purely theoretical and bookish in nature, then we will not receive from it the benefits which it is able to provide. Therefore, if we read Orthodox books or are interested in Orthodoxy solely in order to obtain information or boast of our knowledge before others, we do not see their essence; if we study God’s commandments and the law of His Church only in order to behave “correctly” and to judge the “incorrectness” of others, we do not see their essence. They must not only influence our ideas, but must also bear directly upon our life and change it. In the time of any great crisis in human affairs, those who depend upon a superficial knowledge of laws, canons, and rules, cannot endure. Only those will be strong, whom an Orthodox education has given the sense of true Christianity, whose Orthodoxy lies in the heart and is capable of touching other hearts.
There is nothing more tragic than to see a person who has grown up Orthodox, who knows the catechism, who has read the lives of the saints, who has an understanding of the basic goals of Orthodoxy, who is proficient in some of the services, – and at the same time has no realization of what is going on around him. And he presents this life to his children in two categories: one – how the majority lives, and the second – how the Orthodox live in Sundays. When a child is brought up in such a manner, he will most probably not choose Orthodoxy; it will become a very small part of his life, because modern life is tempting, too many people are involved in it, it replaces reality, – if a person has not been taught how to defend himself from its harmful influence and how to take advantage of all the good that still remains in the world.
In this sense our position should be acceptable and normal, i.e. it should be applied to real-life circumstances and not be a fruit of some fantasy, evasion of life, or refusal to face the unpleasant manifestations of the surrounding world. A hothouse Orthodoxy that is too elevated and up in the clouds is incapable of helping people in their everyday life, since our world is rather cruel and wounds souls with its harshness; above all we must respond with sober Christian love and understanding, leaving isychasm and the higher forms of prayer to those who are capable of attaining them.
Our position should likewise not be egocentric, but should turn towards those who are seeking God and a spiritual life. Currently, in every existing Christian community there is a temptation to turn it into a mutual admiration society, lauding our virtues and spiritual achievements, the beauty of our church buildings and vessels, the splendor of our services, even the purity of our teaching. But, beginning with apostolic times, genuine Christian life was always geared towards sharing it with others. Orthodoxy is a living entity precisely because it shines for others and has no need of establishing any “missionary centers.”
At the same time, our attitude towards people must be an attitude of love and forgiveness. A certain cruelty has now seeped into Orthodox life: “That one is a heretic, do not be in contact with him,” “This one is possibly Orthodox, but there’s no saying with any degree of certainty,” etc. No one will deny that the Church is now surrounded by enemies, and that there are some who are not loath to abuse our trust. But so it was even in apostolic times, and in this practical respect Christian life was always risky. But even if we are sometimes made use of and should be cautious, we still cannot reject our basic position of love and trust, for without it we will lose the foundation of our Christian life. The world without Christ is distrustful and cold, but we Christians, on the contrary, should be loving and open, otherwise we will lose the salt of Christ within ourselves and will become like the rest of the world, fit only to be thrown out and stamped upon.
Regarding ourselves with more humility will help us be more magnanimous and forgiving of others’ mistakes. We love to be judgmental of others for the “strangeness” of their behavior, we call them “touched,” but which Orthodox Christian today is not a little bit “touched”? We are not in accord with the customs of this world, and if we are in accord with today’s world, then we are no longer genuine Christians. A genuine Christian cannot feel himself at home in the world and cannot but appear a bit “touched” to others. Therefore, let us not be afraid of being regarded by the world as “touched,” and let us continue to preserve Christian love and forgiveness, which the world will never be able to understand, but of which it has great need at heart.
Finally, our Christian position should be – for want of a better word – innocent. The world nowadays attaches great importance to complexity, to life experience, to “professionalism.” Orthodoxy assigns no value whatsoever to these traits; they kill off a Christian soul. Nevertheless, these traits consistently penetrate into the Church and into our life. How often can one hear, especially from enraptured converts, of their desire to go off to large centers of Orthodoxy, to cathedrals and monasteries, where thousands of faithful gather together, where the conversation always deals with church topics, and where one can feel the importance of Orthodoxy. This Orthodoxy is just a drop in the bucket if one looks at society as a whole, but there are so many people in these grand cathedrals and monasteries, that Orthodoxy does seem to prevail. And how often one sees these people in a sad state after having satisfied their desire, returning from these “great centers of Orthodoxy” dispirited and disappointed, having had to listen to much worldly church gossip, full of judgment of others, and concerned only with being “Orthodoxically-correct” and worldly-experienced in the subject of church politics. In other words, they have lost their innocence, their not-of-this-worldliness, they have been thrown off course because of their enchantment with the worldly side of church life.
In various forms this temptation stands before us all, and we must fight against it, not allowing ourselves a re-evaluation of Church externals, but always returning to the “one thing needful,” which is Christ and the salvation of our souls. We must not close our eyes to all that is going on in the world and in the Church, but we must know it simply for our own sake, with our knowledge being sober, simple, and straightforward, not complicated and worldly.
It is clear to any Orthodox Christian who realizes what is happening around him that the world is gradually coming to its end. The signs of the times are so obvious that one could even say that the world is collapsing.
What are these signs?
(1) The abnormality of the world. Never have such bizarre and unnatural manifestations and behavior been accepted as something absolutely natural as in our days. Just look at the surrounding world: what the newspapers are writing, what films are being shown, what is running on television, what people find interesting and amusing, what they laugh at, – it is just terrible. And there are people who expressly promote all of this, for their own profit of course, and because it is fashionable, and because there is a perverted desire for such things.
(2) War and rumors of war, one crueler and more horrifying than the other, and all of them overshadowed by the threat of an unthinkable nuclear war that can be unleashed by pressing a button.
(3) Widespread natural disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, the appearance of new volcanoes, – which are also changing the character of the world’s weather.
(4) A growing centralization of information and control over individuals, represented, for example, by the gigantic new computer that has been established in Luxemburg, which is capable of maintaining a file on each person living on earth; its code number is 666, and those who work with it have nicknamed it “The Beast.”
(5) The proliferation of false Christs. In 1982 one such candidate spent millions of dollars advertising on world television his imminent appearance and promising to issue a “telepathic message” at that time to all the inhabitants of the earth. Besides all the occult powers that could be involved in such an event, we already know of the possibility of transmitting subconscious signals over radio and especially over television, as well as the fact that any person possessing technical capabilities is quite able to break into normal radio and TV signals, despite all the laws that exist against such actions.
(6) The ominous appearance of new films such as “E.T.,” which everyone in America talks about and watches, and which made literally millions of outwardly normal people express their loyalty and love to the hero, “a savior from space,” who is obviously a demon, – and this clearly represents a preparation for worshipping the coming Antichrist. (And, by the way, it should be noted that one of the editors of the official newspaper of the Greek Archbishopric in America, an Orthodox priest, wholeheartedly recommended this film to the Orthodox faithful, saying that it is a wonderful film that can teach us all about love, and that everyone should see it.)
Many more such examples could be given. It is truly later than we think. The apocalypse is already in action. And how sad it is to see Christians, and especially young people, the Orthodox youth, over whose head hangs this unbearable tragedy, who think that in these terrible times they can continue living what is called “a normal life,” i.e. fully participating in the caprices of this insane, self-deluding generation. A generation that has no suspicion whatsoever that this “fool’s paradise” in which we are living is headed for collapse; a generation that is totally unprepared for the desperate times that await us. It is no longer a question of being a “good” or a “poor” Orthodox Christian, but a question of whether our faith will remain at all. Many will not preserve it; the coming Antichrist will be too attractive, too much in accord with the spirit of the times, that worldly spirit to which we are aspiring, and the majority of people will not even understand that in venerating him they will have lost their Christianity.
But Christ’s appeal is still directed towards us; let us begin to heed it, let us become true members of the Church of Christ, of the Orthodox Church. Outward membership is not enough; there must occur within us a shift that will make us different from the external world, even if this world calls itself Christian. Let us preserve and nourish these qualities of a true Orthodox worldview, of which we have spoken above: a lively normal attitude towards others, loving and forgiving, not egocentric, preserving our innocence and not-of-this-worldliness even while we fully and humbly realize our sinfulness and the power of the worldly temptations that surround us. If we truly proceed to live with such an Orthodox worldview, our faith will withstand the blows that await us, and will serve as a source of inspiration and salvation to all those who will still be looking for Christ amid the already beginning downfall of humanity.
Father Seraphim Rose †