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


14 September 2013

The Northern Thebaid

Book Review

The Northern Thebaid: Monastic Saints of the Russian North
 Fr. Seraphim (Rose)
Long out of print and much sought for (so much that we not so jokingly counselled the fortunate few who possessed the original hardbound edition to chain their copies to their lecterns!), this treasury of blessings from the monastic tradition of the Russian North includes lives of such well-known luminaries as St. Sergius of Radonezh and St. Nilus of Sora, along with a number of others for whom one would search elsewhere in vain: St. Paul of Obnora, St. Cyril of Belozersk, St. Sabbatius of Solovki, St. Alexander of Svir, St. Anthony of Siya, St. Euphrosynus of Blue-Jay Lake, St. Diodorus of George-Hill, St. Dorothy of Kashin, St. Nicodemus of Kozha Lake and St. Dalmatus of Siberia.
Item# 2691. (DC: R) Paperbound. $17.00.


from Not of This World
In almost every issue of The Orthodox Word, the fathers presented the Life of an ascetic laborer, a true knower of God.  They knew that, more than anything else, it was love for the ascetics themselves that inspired one to podvig.  Fr. Seraphim did not see this love for ascetics coming from the journals of the new theologians [world orthodox].  "And without love for saints," he wrote, "one's Orthodoxy is crippled and one's sense of direction is off -- for they are the examples one has to follow."

In 1973 the fathers began to publish the Lives of the desert-dwellers of Northern Russia, having painstakingly written and compiled them from a number of rare sources.  Their definite aim, they said, was to give them "not merely as an example of dead history, but of living tradition."  Even while they were printing them separately in each issue, however, one leading academic theologian [world orthodox] chastised in print "those who call to non-existent deserts," evidently regarding such Lives as an appeal to a religious "romanticism" totally out of step with contemporary conditions of life.  When the fathers finally printed out the Lives together in a book, which they called The Northern Thebaid, Fr. Seraphim answered this criticism as follows:

"Why, indeed, should we inspire today's Orthodox youth with the call of the 'Northern Thebaid' [of Russia] which has in it something attractive and somehow more accessible for a 20th-century zealot than the barren desert of Egypt?

"First of all, the monastic life here described has not entirely disappeared from the earth; it is still possible to find Orthodox monastic communities which teach the spiritual doctrine of the Holy Fathers, and to lead the Orthodox monastic life even in the 20th century -- with constant self-reproach over how far one falls sort of the Lives of the ancient Fathers in these times ... The wise seeker can find his 'desert' even in our barren 20th century.

"But this book is not intended only for such fortunate ones.

"Every Orthodox Christian should know the Lives of the Fathers of the desert, which together with the Lives of the Martyrs give us the model for our own life of Christian struggle.  Even so, every Orthodox Christian should know of Valaam, of Solovki, of Svir, of Siya and Obnora and White Lake, of the Skete of Sora, and of the Angel-like men who dwell there before being translated to heaven, living the Orthodox spiritual life to which every Orthodox Christian is called, according to his strength and the conditions of his life.  Every Orthodox Christian should be inspired by their life of struggle far from the ways of the world.  There is no "romanticism' here.  The actual 'romantics' of our times are the reformers of 'Parisian Orthodoxy' who, disparaging the authentic Orthodox tradition, wish to 'sanctify the world,' to prostitute the spiritual tradition 'for the life of the world,' (4) to replace the authentic Orthodox world view with a this-worldly counterfeit of it based on modern Western thought.  The spiritual life of the true monastic tradition is the norm of our Christian life, and we had better be informed of it before the terrible last day when we are called to account for our lax life.  We shall not be judged for our ignorance of the vocabulary of contemporary 'Orthodox theology,' but we shall surely be judged for not struggling on the path to salvation.  If we do not live like these Saints, then let us at least increase our far-too-feeble struggles for God, and offer our fervent tears of repentance and our constant self-reproach at falling so short of the standard of perfection which God has shown us in His wondrous Saints."


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