At the time I got baptized, Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works was recommended by the priest who baptized me. Written by Father Damascene, the current abbot of the monastery Father Seraphim started, which I had the privilege of visiting in 2019, the book offers a complete picture of his life, writings, and faith. Not only that, but around the time of my baptism, God sent to me a spiritual child of Father Seraphim Rose, and she enlightened me with many edifying stories of his ministry in California. The paperback of this massive book is hard to find, but I did obtain the Kindle version and read it nightly for a couple of months. It was critical in helping me come to understand my new faith.
Why does anyone need religion?
“Why does a person study religion?” Eugene asked toward the end of his life. “There are many incidental reasons, but there is only one reason if a person is really in earnest: in a word, it is to come into contact with reality, to find a reality deeper than the everyday reality that so quickly changes, rots away, leaves nothing behind and offers no lasting happiness to the human soul. Every religion that is sincere tries to open up contact with this reality.”
The oligarchs of today do not have the truth. The media and Hollywood do not have the truth. Mainstream science does not have the truth. To have the full truth, you must seek God and receive it from him, but which religion is the correct one? Many try to do an investigation with their rational mind, though it could take many years to test the theology of each religion for falsehoods. If a religion has even one lie, it can’t possibly be the correct religion, because God is the source of all truth. You could also try to ask God through prayer to reveal to you the truth, and to put you in His Church. I used a combination of techniques over the course of my adult life and found that the Orthodox Church has the truth and is the only correct religion. It’s the only way to experience the complete fullness of God and His grace.
Who was Father Seraphim Rose?
…inside he was very, very passionate. I mean that not in a worldly sense, but in a spiritual sense. He was an all-or-nothing kind of person; he never did anything halfway.
“However, when I entered an Orthodox church for the first time (a Russian church in San Francisco) something happened to me that I had not experienced in any Buddhist or other Eastern temple; something in my heart said that this was ‘home,’ that all my search was over. I didn’t really know what this meant, because the service was quite strange to me, and in a foreign language. I began to attend Orthodox services more frequently, gradually learning its language and customs…”
Fr. Seraphim tried to ensure that no brothers were deprived of the regular cycle of services just because they had to run errands. When a brother would for some reason miss a service, Fr. Seraphim would even go to church and perform the service all over again with him.
With Fr. Seraphim’s ordination now approaching, he was required to take an oath before the Gospels in which he was to confess sins or other deficiencies which might prevent him from becoming a priest. This he did in the presence of Fr. Herman.
“I feel unworthy to serve,” he told his brother afterward.
“I’m much worse than you are,” objected Fr. Herman.
“No,” Fr. Seraphim continued with pain in his eyes, “I’m worse. I bowed and prayed to pagan idols.” At this he began to weep. Fr. Herman was deeply moved and also amazed to see such deep repentance in Fr. Seraphim over sins he had committed nearly two decades before, when he had been worshipping in Buddhist temples. He could see that Fr. Seraphim actually felt he had defiled himself, having at that time rejected the living Christ and bowed before cold, lifeless pagan statues—the masks of demonic powers. The memory of this youthful apostasy would always be a humbling one for Fr. Seraphim, as would the other sins of his youth. He would never feel “worthy” of his priestly ordination, but would always look on this sacrament, like his reception into the Church, as a totally unmerited blessing of the merciful God.
Modern civilization leads to Antichrist
Science with its new and ‘higher’ knowledge of the ‘spiritual’ realm will possess a tyranny over men hitherto undreamt of; it will be absolute lord in a world completely closed off from the reality transcending it, and attack will be futile, for science itself will possess the supreme weapon: ‘God.’… The ‘master mind’ superintending this activity is none other than that of Satan, the ‘adversary,’ the ‘ape of God,’ who shall rule over his perfected kingdom in the person of Antichrist…. The Antichrist will be irresistible because he is ‘good’ and ‘beneficent’…. The Antichrist himself, the personification of the ‘opposing’ forces of Satan, will be the supreme ‘problem-solver’ of the age, with a ready ‘answer’ to all its weighty and seemingly insoluble problems; and mankind, completely ensnared by ‘reasonableness’ and egocentricity, and seeking ever for the ‘light,’ will readily flock to him who offers the only ‘solution.'”
…man has a choice between two faiths: faith in the eternal God or faith in the temporal world, and that modern society is the product of the latter.
Godless humanism must inevitably revert to subhumanism.
Life is a constant search for ‘fun’ which is so empty of any serious meaning that a visitor from any nineteenth-century country, looking at our popular television programs, amusement parks, advertisements, movies, music—at almost any aspect of our popular culture—would think he had stumbled across a land of imbeciles who have lost all contact with normal reality. We don’t often take that into consideration, because we are living in this society and we take it for granted.
The clearest sign of the end times is hip-hop music. I am subjected to this music by my neighbors and it creates such a laceration to my brain that I marvel at how Satan was able to convince so many millions of people around the world to enjoy the utter inanity of male and female rappers mumbling or yelling their passions to a tribal beat. It is no surprise that in the past I would often listen to this type of music when preparing for a night of fun in the bars or nightclubs.
…in the Roman Catholic Church religious forms had been partially emptied of their “inner dimension,” and thus “the Church had to fall back on its purely external formal dimension.” “The Church,” he wrote, “has continued to exist until the present in a state of decay,” yet has still retained the traditional forms.
…what has been transmitted with imperfect understanding in the Catholic Church has been transmitted in full by the Orthodox Christian East, which has even to the present day preserved intact that whole Truth from the fullness of which the Catholic West departed in schism now nearly a millennium ago.”
Everyone needs Christ
“Christ is the only exit from this world; all other exits—sexual rapture, political utopia, economic independence—are but blind alleys in which rot the corpses of the many that have tried them.”
“Our age has been taught to believe in nothing higher than the human mind, and in the ideas of that mind; that is why the conflicts of our day are ‘ideological,’ and why Truth is not in them. For Truth is only in living communion with living Truth, Christ; apart from Him there is no life, no Truth.”
The process of converting to Orthodoxy
“When conversion does take place,” he said in later years, “the process of revelation occurs in a very simple way: a person is in need, he suffers, and then somehow the other world opens up. The more you are in suffering and difficulties and are desperate for God, the more He is going to come to your aid, reveal Who He is, and show you the way to get out.”
Don’t mix Orthodoxy with anything else. If you want Orthodoxy, go into it deeply; if not, leave it alone and don’t take anything from it—not icons or Jesus Prayer or anything else.
Some converts, alas, think they are very “smart,” and they use Orthodoxy as a means for feeling superior to the non-Orthodox and sometimes even to Orthodox of other jurisdictions.
Converts who pride themselves on “knowing better” than Catholics and Protestants often end by “knowing better” than their own parish priest, bishop, and finally the Fathers and the whole Church!
“Those who are raised Orthodox from childhood,” he said, “have patience, but lack zeal. The converts have zeal, but lack patience. The ideal is to have zeal tempered by patience. We must be governed by the Church Fathers, who are the mind of the Church.”
One who is converted to Orthodoxy straight from ‘rock’ culture, and in general anyone who thinks he can combine Orthodoxy with that kind of culture—has much suffering to go through and a difficult road in life before he can become a truly serious Orthodox Christian who is capable of handing on his faith to others. Without this suffering, without this awareness, Orthodox parents will raise their children to be devoured by the contemporary world. The world’s best culture, properly received, refines and develops the soul; today’s popular culture cripples and deforms the soul and hinders it from having a full and normal response to the message of Orthodoxy.
One could argue that the entire point of modern culture, which is managed and steered by Satan, is to maim souls so badly that they no longer possess a mental faculty to receive the truth of God, or even basic material truths. If you enjoy what this culture gives you, even in the slightest, I hope that your soul is not in trouble.
You must suffer
We all deserve what we suffer, or at least should look on it with gladness as an opportunity to live more deeply and approach our fellow man and our God more closely. But Jesus Christ did not deserve to suffer. He had no cause to, for He was innocent, and He had nothing to learn, nothing to gain from suffering. His was a purely gratuitous act, such as we cannot even imagine, and He suffered as we cannot imagine anyone suffering, for He alone did not flee pity or the suffering of men.
“God give us the strength to pursue the path to crucifixion; there is no other way to be a Christian.”
God allowed the Russian Revolution to take place, in order that the Russian Church might become purged and purified and that the Orthodox Faith might be disseminated across the whole world…. The Church is One, but each nation has its own calling within that Oneness. [Archbishop John]
“Whatever God sends us,” Fr. Seraphim told the brothers at the monastery, “we must accept and do our best with. Every day brings a new struggle, a new chance to increase our prayers, and new ways to serve God.”
Did Christ suffer on the cross so that you may enjoy internet entertainment, steaming hot showers, wireless home climate control, advanced electronic gadgetry, well-paying jobs, and the ability to eat whatever tasty food you wanted every meal of the day without restriction? Is all that the point of life?
The world of man vs the world of God
Every man, by virtue of being human, must choose God or himself. Every man, in fact, has chosen, for we are what we have chosen. And with our choice we indicate our preference for one Kingdom or other: for the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of self.
Mechanical problems with the printing press tested the brothers’ patience to its limit. When Gleb would start his lamentations, however, Eugene would cut them off at once by saying, “You want to go back to the world.—Is that what you want?” At other times he would ask, “Do you want your reward now, or in heaven?” “In heaven, of course,” Gleb would reply. “But can’t I have a little of it now?” At this Eugene would only shake his head: “It’s now or then. Take your pick.”
“The city is for those who are empty, and it pushes away those who are filled. The desert keeps those who are filled and allows them to thrive.”
“Constancy also involves a regular reading of spiritual texts, for example at mealtime. We must be constantly injected with otherworldliness in order to fight against the other side, against the worldliness that constantly gnaws at us. If for just one day we stop these otherworldly ‘injections,’ it is obvious that worldliness starts taking over. When we go without them for one day, worldliness invades—two days, much more. We find that soon we think more and more in a worldly way, the more we allow ourselves to be exposed to that way of thinking and the less we expose ourselves to otherworldly thinking.
Father Alexey: ‘We are pilgrims on this earth and there is nothing permanent for us here.’ We must constantly remind ourselves of that. We are just sojourners. This life is but the beginning of a continuum that will never end. We tend to treat it as though it’s permanent and awfully important in terms of careers and education and getting ahead and all those things. But all of that will die with us when the body dies; none of it will go with us into the next world.
You can’t have two masters: you can’t serve both God and the world at the same time. Upon converting, you will still have one foot in the world, but inch by inch you shuffle it over to the world of God and serve Him alone.
Is modern science a type of magic?
“Modern science,” he wrote, “… has given itself totally to power. Even ‘curiosity,’ the root of modern science, aims at power, for the objective knowledge arrived at through curiosity is one in which ‘facts’ are seen to be at one’s mercy.” Again, he compared science and magic, stating that “their viewpoint is the same. Both are preoccupied with phenomena and their manipulation, with wonders, with results. Both are an attempt at wish fulfillment, an attempt to bend reality to one’s own will. The difference is simply this: science (modern science) is systematic magic; science has found a method, where magic works in fits and starts…. Yes, scientists can consider themselves rational (in the narrowest sense of the word) as long as they keep themselves buried in the laboratory, enslaved by technique. But to someone not so enslaved, someone capable of looking at things in a larger frame of reference—do not the results of science today resemble a magical landscape?”
Science is similar to magic in that it needs to divert your attention from the truth of what your body is experiencing onto the lying words of scientific experts who amaze you with convincing statistics and platitudes, claiming falsely that the magic trick of one of their vaccines has resulted in a positive benefit to mankind even though you’re suddenly suffering from heart palpitations and blood clots. We’re fast approaching the time when you may be better off receiving zero medical care outside of situations involving emergency trauma.
Secular marriage is legalized promiscuity
The easy divorce laws make of marriage as practiced by most moderns merely a kind of legalized promiscuity.
These moderns think they are being ‘realistic’ when they frankly admit their slavery to sexual impulses; well, of course, they are being ‘realistic’ since such slavery is indeed true of weak men, men who will not strive for anything higher than the obvious—but they are surely indulging in the wildest fancies when they think that by doing this they become ‘free.’ ‘Sexual freedom’: this coupling of words that represent totally incompatible realities (since ‘sex’ as practiced today is slavery) is but another instance of that modern incompetence to do anything but follow one’s passions and accept whatever vulgar slogan justifies this aim.”
Even worse are the fornicators who gleefully point to the sexual activity of dogs and monkeys to justify their animalistic behavior, as if we’re hardly different than dumb beasts who sniff at everything and put garbage in their mouths.
How to lead a spiritual life
“…the surest way to bring forth fruit for Holy Orthodoxy is to find yourself in a narrow, confining, almost impossible situation, with no way out but to pray and work with sweat and tears. Too much freedom, too much money, too much opportunity, too many ideas—seem too easily scattered to the wind. We must simply thank God for all our suffering and trials—there’s just no other hope for us!”
“An intelligent man,” stated St. Anthony the Great, “is one who conforms to God and mostly keeps silent; when he speaks he says very little, and only what is necessary and acceptable to God.”
“Christianity in practice, and monasticism above all, is a matter of staying in one place and struggling with all one’s heart for the Kingdom of Heaven. One may be called to do the work of God elsewhere, or may be moved about by unavoidable circumstances; but without the basic and profound desire to endure everything for God in one place without running away, one will scarcely be able to put down the roots required in order to bring forth spiritual fruits.
Wherever you are, that’s where you should work out your salvation, instead of wandering around, looking for the perfect expression of Orthodoxy, the most elevated spirituality, the perfect starets, etc. Fr. Seraphim told me that stability and loyalty are great virtues. What is most pleasing to God, he said, is your perseverance, your humility in working out your salvation where He has placed you.”
“How many different spiritual orientations and problems among them all! And how bleak the spiritual future for those who trust themselves! Only those who deep down do not trust themselves, nor think themselves wise, have the possibility of flourishing spiritually.”
If being Christian meant being “happy” in this life, we wouldn’t need the Kingdom of Heaven.
‘If you do not find Christ in this life, you will not find Him in the next.’
The true faith in Christ is in the heart, and it is fruitful, humble, patient, loving, merciful, compassionate, hungering and thirsting for righteousness; it withdraws from worldly lusts and clings to God alone, strives and seeks always for what is heavenly and eternal, struggles against every sin, and constantly seeks and begs help from God for this.’
Should you become a monk?
Right after they became monks the fathers felt an inward change that indicated to them that there was truly something sacramental in the rite of tonsure. As Fr. Herman described it, he now felt a little flame, as it were, burning in his heart. He asked Fr. Seraphim and found that he experienced the same thing. This flame of love, zeal, and inspiration turned out to be very valuable and in fact indispensable as they endured the heavy troubles that are given to monks in this life.
The whole aim of monastic life is the transfiguration of the old man into an unearthly being, which is why the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor has traditionally held such great significance for monastics. As Fr. Seraphim knew, however, such transfiguration does not happen of itself. He did not wait for the virtues to come naturally, but, seeing their lack in himself, he consciously labored to acquire them, hoping in Christ to strengthen him. Each day entailed constant unseen warfare, watching and fighting against the interior movements of the fallen man. He was one of those about whom Christ said, The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Matt. 11:12).
“True Orthodox monasticism by its very nature is hostile to the principle of modern comfort. The constant activity of the monk is not giving ease to himself, sacrificing himself, giving himself over heart and soul to something above himself; but this is exactly the opposite of the first principle of modern life, which is based on the chiliastic dream of making life easy on earth. To commit oneself to a conscious battle against the principles and habits of modern comfort is a rare and dangerous thing; and thus it is no wonder that our monasticism [today] is so weak—it cannot but reflect the feebleness of Orthodox life in general today.”
Work and prayer (the monastic cycle of services) to exhaustion will give the devil little chance to attack through the mind and may make him use cruder methods (fire, loss of property, etc.) which can be more directly fought.”
Monasticism—martyrdom—suffering an incurable affliction are all the same thing spiritually. Ask God to give, not merely guidance or help—but martyrdom, suffering, a path where you can make a supreme effort, “get involved, ” become on fire to serve God.
As Archbishop Averky had said, “Orthodoxy is an ascetic Faith that calls to ascetic labor in the name of the uprooting of sinful passions and the implanting of Christian virtues.”
I have considered monasticism but my will is too strong. I am overly attached to my own ways of doing things, ranging from work to diet, due to decades of living on my own without being in obedience to anyone. That will would have to be substantially ironed out if I were to even consider attempting monastic life. I suspect married life would be a better fit for me.
…there are teachings on spiritual deception in other traditions, but none so thoroughly refined as those taught by the Orthodox Holy Fathers; and more importantly, these deceptions of the evil one and our own fallen nature are so omnipresent and so through that no one could escape them unless the loving God revealed by Christianity were close at hand to deliver us from them.
That the demons attack you in dreams is a sign of progress—it means they are retreating, seeing that you are resisting conscious sin. God allows this so that you will continue fighting. Often this demon goes away altogether for a while, and one can have a false sense of security that one is “above” this passion; but all the Holy Fathers warn that one cannot consider this passion conquered before the grave. Continue your struggle and take refuge in humility, seeing what base sins you are capable of and how you are lost without the constant help of God Who calls you to a life above these sins.
The ‘gates of hell’ will not prevail against the Church, but they have and certainly can prevail against many who consider themselves pillars of the Church, as is shown by Church history. —Archbishop Averky.
I’ve noticed that other Christian Churches do not talk about “testing the spirits.” It seems that they believe any apparition or spiritual experience is holy or from God, just by sake of it being spiritual. This is not so in the Orthodox Church, where we are trained to automatically refuse the visions of angelic beings. If you were to assume that all spiritual visions are deceptions, you would be close to the truth of what Orthodoxy shares. You don’t need to experience visions in this body—simply wait for Paradise and you will see all the angels you want.
The end times
The core of the New Age movement is found in what Joseph Campbell has called a “new planetary mythology”: a mythology which maintains that man is not fallen, that he is ultimately perfectible through the process of “evolution,” and that through leaps of consciousness he can realize that he is God and thus actualize the chiliastic dream of a Kingdom of God on earth. Such a mythology makes way for the final goal of the “new religious consciousness,” which is to bring forth the New Age Messiah: the so-called “Maitreya—the Christ.” According to Alice Bailey, “angels” will appear with this false Christ in order to convince people that they should follow him.
“I don’t want to frighten you, but we’d better face the fact that what [Russians are] suffering now, or something similar, is probably coming here, and soon. We’re living in the last times, Antichrist is close, and what happens in Russia and other countries like it is the normal experience of our times. Here in the West we’re living in a fool’s paradise which can and probably will soon be lost. Let’s start to prepare—not by storing food or such outward things that some are already doing in America, but with the inward preparation of Orthodox Christians.
How history is made
…if you look at modern history, at the whole revolutionary movement, it is obvious that it is not the economics that is the governing factor, but various ideas which get into people’s souls about actually building paradise on earth. Once that idea gets there, then fantastic things are done, because this is a spiritual thing. Even though it is from the devil, it is on a spiritual level, and that is where actual history is made…
Because there is a spiritual reality behind everything in this world, I quickly grow tired of purely materialistic and mechanistic explanations. If you deny the spiritual in your conclusions, you are not close to the truth. Therefore, if you are not Orthodox, I will be skeptical that you are speaking the truth, or at least a truth that is not tainted or distorted by your passions.
Those who are outside the Orthodox Church
…it is not for us to define the state of those who are outside the Orthodox Church. If God wishes to grant salvation to some who are Christians in the best way they know, but without ever knowing the Orthodox Church—that is up to Him, not us. But when He does this, it is outside the normal way that He established for salvation—which is in the Church, as a part of the Body of Christ. I myself can accept the experience of Protestants being ‘born-again’ in Christ; I have met people who have changed their lives entirely through meeting Christ, and I cannot deny their experience just because they are not Orthodox. I call these people “subjective” or “beginning” Christians. But until they are united to the Orthodox Church they cannot have the fullness of Christianity, they cannot be objectively Christian as belonging to the Body of Christ and receiving the grace of the sacraments. I think this is why there are so many sects among them—they begin the Christian life with a genuine conversion to Christ, but they cannot continue the Christian life in the right way until they are united to the Orthodox Church, and they therefore substitute their own opinions and subjective experiences for the Church’s teaching and sacraments
I received a strong dose of grace while living in Europe. That grace allowed me to turn away from sexual sin and build a foundation of spiritual life. I’ve also seen something that looks like grace in even non-Christians, and that’s because God loves all His creatures and aids those who want to abide by the natural and moral laws. Nonetheless, the grace outside of the Orthodox Church is limited, meant to propel you into the Church.
I see heterodox grace as one tank of gasoline in a car. You must use that gasoline to arrive at Orthodoxy as the ultimate truth, or else you will run out of zeal and then fall back into worldly ways without even knowing it, which is all too common with those who had powerful spiritual experiences but did not eventually convert to Orthodoxy. If I had not converted, I’m absolutely certain that I would not reach the level of faith I possess now, as meager as it may be compared to those who have been in the Church for long. Without the full set of tools Orthodoxy provides to fulfill spiritual labors and engage in spiritual warfare, I’m not confident my soul would be saved.
It’s better to teach only when asked
In the Life of Elder Joseph of Optina, it is told how a certain monk used to murmur at the Elder because he was so sparing with words and never said anything without being questioned. “Why is this?” thought the monk. “The Elder is so well-read in Patristic teaching, and is himself so filled with spiritual wisdom, that he could say more—but you have to force him with questions.” Later, however, the Elder explained this matter to him with the words of St. Peter Damascene, who wrote: “One should not say anything profitable without the inquiry of the brethren, in order that good might come through free will, as the Apostle teaches: Neither as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (I Peter 5:3). Without being asked, even the ancient Fathers did not speak of that which served for salvation, considering this to be idle talking.”
Society must repent
…it had not been enough for just a select group to be turning away from evil. In order for Russia to be free again, the repentance of the evils of the past had to become a national movement, coming from the broad spectrum of Russian society.
To be a true Orthodox Christian
What if we who are Orthodox Christians began to realize who we are?—to take our Christianity seriously, to live as though we actually were in contact with the true Christianity? We would begin to be different, others around us would begin to be interested in why we are different, and we would begin to realize that we have the answers to their spiritual questions.”
I deem Father Seraphim Rose: His Life And Works to be the best book for those who have just converted to Orthodoxy. I am certain that you will see many aspects of Father Seraphim in yourself. Like him, I was tricked by the modern world to commit sins I regretted, and like him, I searched through multiple religions and ideologies for the truth. He found Orthodoxy through a parish on the West Coast while I found it in the monasteries of the East Coast, and though our life experiences were spaced forty years apart, we both have come to share the same faith and the same truth, without distortion and error, where God’s grace is available in full to heal the damage we sustained in a world that is rapidly approaching the end of times.
Learn More: Father Seraphim Rose: His Life And Works