04 May 2012
Archimandrite Sebastian Dobovich
Eugene Rose Lay Sermon Dec. 1965
On November 30 was the 25th anniversary of the death of Archimandrite Sebastian Dabovich, an important figure in the history of Orthodoxy in America. Few Orthodox in America are perhaps aware of the promising beginning that was made by Orthodox missinaries in the 18th and 19th centuries. From Blessed Father Herman and the early missionaries to Alaska, through Bishop Innocent [later Metropolitan of Moscow], to the first Orthodox bishop of San Francisco at the end of the last century, a serious attempt was undertaken to make the riches of Holy Orthodoxy accessible to Americans. One of the most notable examples _ and results – of this missionary endeavor was the life and writings of Archimandrite Sebastian. Born in 1863 in San Francisco of Serbian parents, he was the first native American to become a priest and monk in the Orthodox Church. Fluent in Russian, Serbian and English, he preached the Gospel in all three languages. He is remembered fondly by many Serbs as the founder and inspirer of many Serbian parishes. In the English language he preached sermons and gave lectures, a number of which he published, together with independent essays, translations, and expositions of the Orthodox Faith. In these he took as his motto the phrase of St. Paul: speaking the truth in love [Eph. 4:15]. Without judging those outside the Church, and showing every kindness to them in his relations with them, he nonetheless preached the truth without compromise, condemning all liberalism and indifference in religious matters as "foul treachery" to God's Truth, proceeding from a lack of faith and conviction.
His is an example Orthodox missionaries of today might well heed. The temptation is strong to forget the essentially missionary nature of Orthodoxy, or to substitute for it a weak and timid "ecumenism" that fears to speak the whole truth least some be offended by it. But one cannot be true to Holy Orthodoxy in this way. Orthodoxy is the one true Church of Christ, the only pure and genuine Christianity; and this fact places upon Orthodox believers the obligation, when speaking of the Church to others, to do so straightforwardly and without adulteration – with love, surely, but above all with love for God's Truth.