Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Proper Response to Scandal

By St. John Chrysostom

And you, therefore, when you see some who are stumbling because of what has occurred (scandal), first take into account that their stumbling does not result from the events but from their own weakness - which is clearly shown by those who have not stumbled. Then, consider that as a result, many have shone even more brightly, glorifying God, and with all earnestness giving thanks to Him even for these things. Therefore, regard not those who are shaken to and fro, but those who are standing firm and remaining steadfast, and in this way are becoming stronger. Do not regard those who are thrown into confusion, but those who are sailing before the wind, and who are much more numerous than those who are being swept away. But even if the latter were more numerous, one man doing the will of God would be superior to thousands of transgressors.

From "On the Providence of God", p. 126. St. Herman Press.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Images of Heavenly Worship

By St. Dionysius the Areogapite

.... The sacred institution and source of perfection established our most pious hierarchy. He modeled it on the hierarchies of heaven, and clothed these immaterial hierarchies in numerous material figures and forms so that, in a way appropriate to our nature, we might be uplifted from these most venerable images to interpretations and assimilations which are simple and inexpressible. For it is quite impossible that we humans should, in any immaterial way, rise up to imitate and to contemplate the heavenly hierarchies without aid of those material means capable of guiding us as our nature requires. Hence, any thinking person realizes that the appearances of beauty are signs of an invisible loveliness. The beautiful odors which strike the senses are representation of conceptual diffusion. Material lights are images of the outpouring of an immaterial gift of light. The thoroughness of sacred discipleship indicates the immense contemplative capacity of the mind. Order and rank here below are a sign of the harmonious ordering toward the divine realm. The reception of the most divine Eucharist is a symbol of participation in Jesus. And so it goes for all the gifts transcendentally received by the beings of heaven, gifts which are granted to us in a symbolic mode.

The source of spiritual perfection provided us with perceptible images of these heavenly minds. He did so out of concern for us and because He wanted us to be made godlike. He made the heavenly hierarchies known to us. He made our own hierarchy a ministerial colleague of these divine hierarchies by assimilation, to the extent that is humanly feasible, to their godlike priesthood. He revealed all this to us in the sacred pictures of the scriptures so that He might lift us in spirit through the perceptible to the conceptual, from sacred shapes and symbols to the simple peaks of the hierarchies of heaven.

From: The Celestial Hierarchy

Monday, June 29, 2015

I Was Made This Way: the Image of Christ for All Humanity

 At every Divine Liturgy Orthodox Christians sing, “We have seen the true light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, we worship the indivisible Trinity: for He has saved us.” In the season of Great Lent during the Presactified Liturgy the priest turns at one point with a lit candle raised aloft and proclaims, “The Light of Christ illumines all!” It has always been the Christian confession that the Revelation of Jesus Christ gives guidance and illumination to every aspect of human life. Indeed a person truly lives in a human manner by abiding in Christ God, the Theanthropos. We confess that since we, humanity, are God's creation He alone knows, and has fully revealed, what is truly good for us and what is truly destructive. Christianity is not a vague notion of feel good ideas and “love” but an all- encompassing way of life and love, which is God Himself (cf. 1 John 4:8). According to the revelation of God the standard for human living is Christ, and every person, if they follow God, is called to Christofication. A Christian is one who is losing his life, that which this corrupt world counts as valuable, to gain Christ, that One Thing Needful, the Everlasting One (Cf. Matt. 16:24ff).

It is clear from the Scripture and the life of the Church that the Christian way also encompasses and guides our sexual life. Christianity has always proclaimed that the only God-given means of sexual expression is within a marriage between one man and one woman. Even then the married couple is called by the Church to a life of chastity, that is marriage is not a license for whatever kind of “sex” I desire, nor is it but some contractual legal sex. Sexual immorality is thoroughly condemned in the Scriptures. The Gospel exposes sin so that we may be healed of it; the point is spiritual health and wholeness. In a similar manner, a doctor reveals malady not to condemn his patient, but to help him in therapy and thus a road to recovery. (And if a patient left a doctor's office and complained that the doctor was judgmental and condemning because he diagnosed his illness, would this not be thought of as ridiculous? The diagnosis is not a condemnation of the person, but the illness; moreover, the diagnosis has as its goal the well-being of the person. We may speak of the “evil” of cancer without condemning a cancer patient. Again, not to speak of the potential threat would be the most uncaring thing to do, the illness is addressed to save the person. In a similar manner, sin is addressed to save humanity from its destructive energy.) God has revealed human wholeness in Christ, and He exposes our fleshly fallen weakness not to condemn but to heal. Of course, if a patient refuses treatment then the sickness becomes of his own doing, in a like manner if humanity refuses the spiritual healing in Christ then the ensuing death, spiritual death, is its own doing. God is abundantly clear: to reject Life leaves one only with death. Adultery, fornication, masturbation, pornography, sodomy, and so forth (cf. 1 Tim. 1:8ff, 1 Cor. 6:9-10) have always been counted as contrary to Godly living. In fact, one may not actively and unrepentantly be living and indulging in sin and be a Christian, for a Christian is one who is conforming his life to Christ through repentance and grace. The simple fact is, according to the revelation of Jesus Christ mankind is created to live a certain way, and outside of that manner of life, there is only death.

Thus, for Christians to remain silent about the grave consequences of sexual sin (and sin in general) is one of the most hateful things they could do. If one knew a road led to certain death and one was silent, would not that person be complicit in the death of those who traveled on it? If a doctor knew a patient had cancer and was silent, actively not informing him of treatment plans, rather telling him that cancer is normal and a blessing, a sign that he is healthy, would not that doctor be of the worst sort? And if a day of “celebrate cancer” were proclaimed would a good doctor, who knows the grave effects of the disease, rejoice in such a day? Or would he not try to inform and warn as many as he could regarding the insanity of such a measure? Those who claim to be Christians and are passively silent and even go so far as to approve of modern sexual immorality are like unto the situations of heedlessness mentioned above. Indeed they have lost evangelic charity and have become complicit in the destruction of their fellow man. To approve of sexual immorality reveals a grave, troubling, and false understanding of morality and anthropology.

In our times the issue of sodomy, which is currently in the limelight, is simply the end result of a society that has lived for its own pleasure, and has for many years now approved of a long list of sexual perversions, starting with the heterosexual sort. It is evident from Divine revelation that we receive that which we desire, if we, in truth, desire God we will receive Him, and if we do not then we will receive the opposite. In Romans chapter one, it is clear that sodomy and sexual debauchery, in general, are the result of mankind's homo-eros, self- infatuated love. God having revealed Himself to mankind, which He created, is rejected by it; rather mankind turns in on itself and begins to see in itself the end of all things, which is self-deification. At some point in history, this homo-eros was manifested in classic idolatry; today idolatry continues in a more sophisticated manner. Nonetheless, the essence is the same. Modern man in his “free thinking” worships his every thought and emotion as a god, and he follows the whims and dictates of his mutable corrupt heart like a slave does his master. Some, even in Orthodoxy, continue to claim Christ, for it is always easier to worship self under another name, while explicitly denying the most basic Christian teachings. We may as well hang mirrors in our icon corners and pray in front of them, and if it makes one feel better one could draw a little beard and halo on the mirror. We refuse Him and yet claim to be His. We skeptically question revelation and the teaching of the saints, because, the excuse goes, they did not live in the age of progress (!?), and blindly follow “modern research.” Do we, as Christians, take seriously Christ's words in the Revelation of St. John concerning entrance into Life, “there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes abomination, or a lie” (cf. Rev. 21:27)? Or have we also forgotten that “No one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24) and “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4)? "There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between these two ways" (The Didache).

We as Christians are called to reason in the Light of Christ and to let that Light alone guide our path. Humanity's “reason” will be guided by something, everyone submits his mind to some ideology, philosophy, or such thing; a Christian chooses Christ and conforms his mind to the mind of Christ. We are called to repentance, as is the whole world. If we as Christians cease to issue a call for repentance, either by giving approbation or passive silence to explicit sinful death at work in our neighbor, then we are simply salt without flavor worthy of nothing but to be trampled underfoot (cf. Matt. 5:13). Let us not forget that the Church is called to be the leaven and salt of this world, its conscience which reminds it of the ultimate heavenly reality to which all mankind will be held accountable (whether one believes it now or not), even when the world does not want to hear it. 

The call to inner self-examination and repentance does not make us impotent and mute before evident and manifest sins. Thus the misuse of certain people who claim that it is Christian love to approve of sin, conveniently hiding behind "who am I to judge," is nothing short of heresy and godlessness, it is indeed truly hateful for we become willing accomplices in the spiritual destruction of our neighbor. While in reality, it is his spiritual well-being which should be our sincere and heartfelt concern. Love is the keeping of Christ's commandments, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 Jn. 5:2-3), even those concerning our sexuality. This is the Gospel love of neighbor, the intent and will to live in the image Christ. So we see that Godly love is not the detached amorphous, evanescent “love” of the modern world, something St. Theophan the Recluse calls “indifferentism” (see on this blog the article “On Truth and Love” for more on that subject). Modern man is just fine with spiritual suicide, while a Christian is concerned for the eternal soul and life of a person, and indeed all of humanity. Real abiding Love is grounded in the person of God and is manifested in the keeping of His commandments: that is the desire and intent of will to live according and be conformed to the clear revelation of Christ. Christians, of course, rise and fall and struggle with sin, but the issue at hand is a blatant justification of sin, its “normalization,” which indeed is the greatest lack of love. The justification of sin is the justification of death, hatred, and the devil, and all that is contrary to goodness, life, love and God.

 St. Paul tells us, “Even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8). This “new” revelation and "gospel of love” and “toleration” (rather “totoleration”) seems to be a new wonderful heavenly angel sent to set mankind free; their murky aura infatuates so many people today. But they are "freedom" that ends in destruction. We are further forewarned, “Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! … For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn away from the truth” (2 Tim 3:1-5, 4:3-4). Further, the faithful of the Lord proclaim, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Is. 5:20). What is the Christian called to do? “Brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15) and "contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the eternal revelation of Truth, the image for a truly human life, and for the life of the world this Gospel must remain eternally the same, as is Christ the Lord (cf. Heb. 13:8). World, your mad rush into a pleasure-loving orgy has only one end: the loss of your soul and destruction. I would be remiss if I remained silent, but we may all take heart for the Church stands in the wilderness crying to all who have ears to hear: “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt. 3:2).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Restoring the heritage and culture of the West

Editor's note: below is an excerpt from the introduction by Fr. Seraphim (Rose) to the Vita Patrum. Although, sadly, the work is currently out of print, it is nonetheless of monumental value to Christians in the West. Fr. Seraphim writes with both spiritual perception and true scholarly concern. Currently there is a ruthless attack on Western culture, which proceeds from the "enlightened" ones of our times. Sadly they seek to systematically destroy the very history and legacy which profoundly formed what we know as the "West". (A process greatly accelerated by the revolutions of the 17 and 18 hundreds.) Thus for Orthodox Christians of today, and moreover those of us living in the "West", it is good to note that our culture and heritage is Christian, and the current aggressive obliteration of the Christian fabric of the West (what is left of it) is indeed a type of self hatred. This hatred is making itself more and more evident with every passing day. Thus in a very real sense those who are striving to continue in and hold fast to the Christian way are indeed those who are true patriots of the West, that is, they are the ones who realize the beauty of culture and heritage, which is founded on Orthodox Christianity. The current anti-culture of the day is a self loathing and destructive force, which once it cannibalizes itself will turn to annihilate anything of beauty that remains in the world, leaving only the stark bones of naturalistic dialectic materialism to adorn the barren wasteland of "progress". 
So that we do not become skeletons on this marionette stage, we need to understand the deeply rich and Christian roots of the West, roots that are kept alive in the Orthodox Church. Thus in truly living Orthodox Christianity we are not living something simply "Eastern" but also something profoundly "Western", or better yet we are essentially Catholic, i.e. complete and universal. Thus if we would save the last shreds of our Western culture from the self-haters of the day, we must repent and live the Christian life of our ancestors. In this lies the reality of the West. The true culture and heritage of the West is alive and well in the Orthodox Church. If it looks funny, or strikes us as strange, it may just be that we have unwittingly traveled too far down the streams of amoralistic anti-western progress. The work by Fr. Seraphim reveals the heart of the "West", the only one that will bring it life again. 
The reader may also see "Early Christianity in the West" on this blog for further reading on the subject.

Begin excerpt:

To sum up this brief description of 6th century Christian Gaul, we may say that here we find already the historical Orthodox world which is familiar even today to any Orthodox Christian who is at home in true (not modernized or renovated Orthodoxy) … In modern times, 6th-century Gaul may most accurately be likened to 19th-century Russia. Both societies were entirely permeated with Orthodox Christianity; in them the Orthodox standard was always the governing principle of life (however short of it the practice might fall), and the central fact in the life of the people was reverence for Christ, the holy things of the Church, and sanctity … Does the Christian world of St. Gregory of Tours have any spiritual significance for us today, or is it of no more than antiquarian interest for us, the “out-of-date” Orthodox Christians of the 20th century?

Much has been written in modern times of the “fossilized” Orthodox Church and its followers who, when they are true to themselves and their priceless heritage, simply do not “fit in” with anyone else in the contemporary world, whether heterodox Christians, pagans, or unbelievers. If only we could understand it, there is a message in this for us, concerning our position among others in the world and our preservation of the Orthodox Faith.

Perhaps no one has better expressed the modern world's bewilderment over genuine Orthodoxy Christianity than the renowned scholar of St. Gregory of Tours and the Gaul of his times. In his book, Roman Society in Gaul in the Merovingian Age (London, 1926), Sir Samuel Dill has written: “The dim religious life of the Middle Ages is severed from the modern mind by so wide a gulf, by such a revolution of beliefs that the most cultivated sympathy can only hope to revive it in faint imagination. Its hard, firm, realistic faith in the wonders and terrors of an unseen world seems to evade the utmost effort to make it real to us” (p. 324). “Gregory's legends reveal a world of imagination and fervent belief which no modern man can ever fully enter into, even with the most insinuating power of imaginative sympathy. It is intensely interesting, even fascinating. But the interest is that of the remote observer, studying with cold scrutiny a puzzling phase in the development of the human spirit. Between us and the Middle Ages there is a gulf which the most supple and agile imagination can hardly hope to pass. He who has pondered most deeply over the popular faith of that time will feel most deeply how impossible it it to pierce its secret” (p. 397).

And yet, for us who strive to be conscious Orthodox Christians in the 20th century it is precisely the spiritual world of St. Gregory of Tours that is of profound relevance and significance. The material side is familiar to us, but that is only an expression of something much deeper. It is surely providential for us that the material side of the Orthodox Culture of Gaul has been almost entirely destroyed, and we cannot view it directly even in a museum of dead antiquities; for that leaves the spiritual message of his epoch even freer to speak to us . The Orthodox Christian of today is overwhelmed to open St. Gregory's “Book of Miracles” and find there just what his soul is craving in this soulless mechanistic modern world; he finds that very Christian path of salvation which he knows in the Orthodox services, the Lives of the Saints, the Patristic writings, but which is so absent today, even among the best modern “Christians,” that one begins to wonder whether one is not really insane, or some literal fossil of history, for continuing to believe and feel as the Church has always believed and felt. It is one thing to recognize the intellectual truth of Orthodox Christianity; but how is one to live it when it is so out of harmony with the times? And then one reads St. Gregory and finds that all of this Orthodox truth is also profoundly normal, that whole societies were once based on it, that it is unbelief and “renovated” Christianity which are profoundly abnormal and not Orthodox Christianity, that this is the heritage and birthright of the West itself which it deserted so long ago when it separated from the one and only Church of Christ, thereby losing the key to the “secret” which so baffles the modern scholar – the “secret” of true Christianity, which must be approached with a fervent, believing heart, and not with the cold aloofness of modern unbelief which is not natural to man bu is an anomaly of history.

But let us just briefly state why the Orthodox Christian feels so much at home in the spiritual world of St. Gregory of Tours.
St. Gregory is a historian; but this does not mean a mere chronicler of bare facts, or the mythical “objective observer” of son much of modern scholarship who looks at things with the “cold scrutiny” of the “remote observer.” He had a point of view; he was always seeking a pattern in history; he had constantly before him what the modern scientist would call a “model” into which he fitted the historical facts which he collected. In actual fact, all scientists and scholars act in this way, and any one who denies it only deceives himself and admits in effect that his “model” of reality, his basis for interpreting facts, is unconscious and therefore is much more capable of distorting reality than is the “model” of a scholar who knows what his own basic beliefs and presuppositions are. The “objective observer,” most often in our times, is someone whose basic view of reality if modern unbelief and skepticism, who is willing to ascribe the lowest possible motives to historical personages, who is inclined to dismiss all “supernatural” events as belonging to the convenient categories of “superstition” or “self-deception” or as to be understood within the concepts of modern psychology.
The “model” by which St. Gregory interprets reality is Orthodox Christianity, and he not only subscribed to it in his mind, but is fervently committed to it with his whole heart. Thus, he begins this great historical work, The History of the Franks, with nothing less than his own confession of faith: “Proposing as I do to describe the wars waged by kings against hostile peoples, by martyrs against heathen and by the Church against heretics, I wish first of all to explain my own faith, so that whoever reads me may not doubt that I am a Catholic.” (“Catholic,” of course, in 6th-century texts, means the same thing that we now mean by the word “Orthodox.”) There follows the Nicene Creed, paraphrased and with certain Orthodox interpretations added.

Thus in St. Gregory we may see the wholeness of view which has been lost by almost all of modern scholarship – another one of those basic differences between East and West that began only with the Schism of Rome. In this, St. Gregory is fully in the Orthodox spirit. In this approach there is a great advantage solely from the point of view of historical fact – for we have before us not only the “bare facts” he chronicles, but we understand as well the context in which he interprets them. But more important that this – particularly when it comes to chronicling supernatural events or the virtues of the saints – we have the inestimable advantage of a trained observer on the spot, so to speak – someone who interprets spiritual events (almost all of which he knew either from personal experience or from the testimony of witnesses he regarded as reliable) on the basis of the Church's tradition and his own rich Christian experience. We do not need to guess as to the meaning of some spiritually-significant event when we have such a reliable contemporary interpreter of it, and especially when his interpretations are so much in accord with what we find in the basic source books of the Orthodox East. We may place all the more trust in St. Gregory's interpretations when we know that he himself was granted spiritual visions (as described in his life) and was frank in admitting that he did not see the spiritual visions of others (HF V, 50).

Sir Samuel Dill notes that access is denied him, as a modern man, to the world of St. Gregory's “legends.” What are we, 20th-century Orthodox Christians to think of these “legends”? Prof. Dalton notes, regarding the very book of St. Gregory which we are presenting here, that “his Lives of the Fathers have something of the childlike simplicity characterizing the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great” (vol.1, p. 21). We have already discussed, in the “Prologue” to this book, the value of this “childlikeness” for Orthodox Christians today, as well as the high standards of truthfulness of such Orthodox writers as St. Gregory the Great (as contrast with the frequent fables of the medieval West). The extraordinary spiritual manifestations described by St. Gregory of Tours are familiar to any Orthodox Christian who is well grounded in the ABC's of spiritual experience and in the basic Orthodox source-books; they sound like “legends” only to those whose grounding is in the materialism and unbelief of modern times. Somewhat ironically, these “legends” have now become a little more accessible to a new generation that had become interested in psychic and occult phenomena as well as actual sorcery and witch craft; but for them the whole tone of St. Gregory's writings will remain foreign unless they obtain the key to its “secret”: true Orthodox Christianity. St. Gregory's “wonders and terrors of an unseen world” open up for us another reality entirely from that of modern unbelief and occultism alike: the reality of spiritual life, which is indeed more unseen than seen, which does indeed account for many extraordinary phenomena usually misunderstood by modern scholarship, and which begins now and continues into eternity.

There is, finally, another aspect of St. Gregory's writings which modern historians find generally not so baffling as disdainfully amusing, but to which, again, we Orthodox Christians have the key which they lack. This aspect is that of the “coincidences,” omens, and the like, which St. Gregory finds significant but which modern historians find totally irrelevant to the chronicling of historical events. Some of these phenomena are manifestations of spiritual visions, such as the baked sword which St. Salvius (and no one eles) saw hanging over the house of King Chilperic, portending the death of the king' sons (HF V, 50). But other of the manifestations are simply dreams or natural phenomena of an extraordinary kind, which either fill St. Gregory with foreboding (Hf VIII, 17) or of which he says in all simplicity, “I have no idea what all this meant” (HF V, 23). The modern historian is only amused at the idea of finding “meaning” behind earthquakes or strange signs in the sky; but St. Gregory, as a Christian historian, is aware that God's Providence is ate work everywhere in the universe and can be understood even in small or seemingly random details by those who are spiritually sensitive; he sees that the deepest causes of historical events are by no means always the obvious ones. Concerning this theological point we may cite the words of a contemporary of St. Gregory in the East, Abba Dorotheus, to whom the writings of St. Gregory would have been not in the least strange. “It is good, brethren, to place your hope for every deed upon God and to say: Nothing happens without the will of God; but of course God knew that this was good and useful and profitable, and therefore he did this, even though this matter also had some outward cause. For example, I could say that inasmuch as I ate food with the pilgrims and forced myself a little in order to be host to them, therefore my stomach was weighed down and there was a numbness caused in my feet and from this I became ill. I could also cite various causes (for one who seeks them, there is no lack of them); but the most sure and profitable thing is to say: In truth God knew that this would be more profitable for my soul, and therefore it happened in this way.” (St. Abba Dorotheus, Spiritual Instructions, Instruction 12.)

 St. Gregory, like St. Abba Dorotheus, was always seeking first of all the primary or inward cause of events, which concern the will of God and man's salvation. That is why his history of the Franks, as well as of individual saints, are of much greater value than the “objective” (that is purely outward) researches of modern scholars into the same subjects. This is not to say that some of his historical facts might not be subject to correction, but only that his spiritual interpretation of events is basically the correct, the Christian one.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Akathist to St. Seraphim of Vyritsa

Akathist to St. Seraphim of Vyritsa

St. Seraphim of Vyritsa

Kontak 1

Venerable father Seraphim, chosen and well-pleasing to Christ, blessed protector and radiant beacon of the Orthodox Faith and the Russian land, the miraculous image of salvation was revealed in thee, for by thy works thou didst strive for the priceless mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven. Unto thine intercessions we run, and a song of praise we bring unto thee, crying out with love:
Rejoice O venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

Ikos 1

Possessing angel like beauty in thy soul, O venerable father, thy heart was all aflame for the Lord of Hosts; from thy youth didst thou desire to serve Him alone, revealing true obedience to thy Creator. We, marveling at the providence of God made manifest in thee, cry with faith:

Rejoice, worthy youth of virtuous parents.
Rejoice, thou who from thy youth didst love the Lord with all thy soul.
Rejoice, reverent zealot of the Divine Services.
Rejoice, contemplative beholder of the world of spiritual tenderness.
Rejoice, diligent practitioner of pure prayer with all thy heart.
Rejoice, thou who didst strive with contrition of heart wholly for God.
Rejoice, thou who didst open up thy heart to a schema monk of the Lavra.
Rejoice, for thorough him thou didst find the will of God for thyself.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

Kontak 2

Gazing upon the Lord with spiritual eyes and trusting in His mercy, O blessed father, thou wast united in lawful marriage and didst diligently fulfill spiritual and bodily purity; together with thy wife thou didst grow in every virtue, thus we unceasingly sing to the Lord: Alleluia!
Ikos 2

Our minds cannot comprehend, O father Seraphim, how to worthily proclaim in words thy faith and love for the Lord; never doubting in the goodness of the Heavenly Father thou didst feed thy soul on complete trust in God, therefore we cry unto thee:

Rejoice, unshakable image of faith.
Rejoice, accomplisher of spiritual meekness.
Rejoice, thou who with fear of God didst preserve in His commandments.
Rejoice, thou who everyday wast instructed in His truth.
Rejoice, possessor of thy soul in patience.
Rejoice, seeker of the Kingdom of God above all else.
Rejoice, preserver of thy marriage in chastity and temperance.
Rejoice, bearer of the love of wisdom and a quiet disposition.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

Kontak 3
Being made strong by Heavenly strength, in wisdom thou didst join interior labor with work in the world, O righteous father, and by deeds of mercy performed for the sake of Christ, God's blessing shown forth in thee. Therefore cover us, who are naked of any good deeds, with thy love, that we may praise the merciful God: Alleluia!

Ikos 3

Possessing compassion, O merciful father, thou didst strengthen and comfort the afflicted, the sick, and the orphaned, through which thou didst acquire love of Christ. Hence, receive from us this song of thanksgiving:

Rejoice, quick helper of those in sorrows.
Rejoice, generous giver to those who ask of thee.
Rejoice, benefactor of churches and monasteries.
Rejoice, caring protector of the infirm and impoverished.
Rejoice, servant of thy neighbor, as if to Christ Himself.
Rejoice, for thou didst count worldly riches as nothing.
Rejoice, thou who wast free of earthly passions.
Rejoice, for by faith and good works thou wast made steadfast.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

Kontak 4

The storms stirred up in Russia by those who fight against God did not frighten thee, O God-bearing father, for taking upon thyself the podvig of confession, and armed with valiant courage, having wholly given thyself to Him, thou art rightly called a perfect disciple of the Lord. Thus we joyfully sing: Alleluia!

Ikos 4

Hearing of the grievous sufferings endured by those faithful to the name of Christ, thou didst cry out with the Apostle, “Who or what can separate us from the love of God?” Truly we know, O father, that all things work for the good of those who love God; therefore we, although full of many sins, entreat thee, ask for us of the Lord all that is good and profitable for our souls, for desiring this we cry to thee:

Rejoice, courageous confessor of the Orthodox Faith.
Rejoice, thou who didst yearn to suffer for Christ, even unto death.
Rejoice, for unto the glory of God thou didst give all thy possessions away.
Rejoice, beloved devoted follower of thy Beloved.
Rejoice, gold purified in the furnace of temptations.
Rejoice, tree planted by the fountain of living water.
Rejoice, transformer of afflictions and tribulations into spiritual riches.
Rejoice, thou who didst prepare thyself for monasticism through hidden podvigs.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

Kontak 5

The Lord revealed thee as a divinely shining star in the Lavra of St. Alexander Nevsky, O venerable father Seraphim; while abiding in the angelic rank thou didst receive the grace of the priesthood, and therewith didst strengthen many souls which dwelt in the darkness of despair, illumining them with the light of Truth, therefore we sing to the Lord: Alleluia!

Ikos 5

The brotherhood witnessed how through whole-hearted fasting thou wast made well-pleasing to God; for thou didst not labor in vain, but rather deepened in humility and the attainment of peace and joy in the Lord. Therefore we, beholding thy spiritual ascent from strength to strength, with reverence cry to thee:

Rejoice, thou who didst crucify thy passionate and fleshly desires.
Rejoice, thou who through repentance didst wash away the filth of sin.
Rejoice, thou who didst comprehend the grace filled power of humility.
Rejoice, renewer of thy soul through works of the Gospel commandments.
Rejoice, unceasing invocation of the name of sweetest Jesus.
Rejoice, taster, even on earth, of the blessed coming age.
Rejoice, offerer of the bloodless Sacrifice with fear and trembling.
Rejoice, nourisher, with words of wisdom, of everyone who came to thee.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyrista!

Kontak 6

Receiving perfect love as the crown of virtue, together with the gift of the Holy Spirit, thou didst lift up the infirmities of the infirm, O spirit-bearing father, and didst guide many souls to salvation. Thus we, the sinful ones, are healed of our many and various maladies through thine intercessions, singing with thankfulness to the Lord: Alleluia!

Ikos 6
The Truth of God shone from thy face and drove back demonic prelest, delivering the Lavra from the yoke of the false reformers of the Church, and bringing great joy to the monastic brethren. This we ask of thee, O peacemaker, quench the divisions and discords in our life and destroy all falsehood, for with oneness of soul we cry to thee:

Rejoice, temple of Christ not made by hands.
Rejoice, beautifully adorned one with the abundance of the Holy Spirit.
Rejoice, for thy heart encompassed the whole world.
Rejoice, incense of prayer unceasingly rising before the Lord.
Rejoice, fervent sufferer in soul for the lost.
Rejoice, ardent desire that all would come unto salvation and the reason of truth.
Rejoice, conqueror through meekness and humility of the pride and evil of godlessness.
Rejoice, harmonious teacher of the commandment of Christ, “Love thine enemy”.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

Kontak 7

The Lord, the Lover of mankind, revealed in thee a new spiritual light and gave thee to the monastic brotherhood as a spiritual father. Thus didst thou receive the Great Schema from God as a seal of perfection; thy soul being filled with the pure fiery flame of prayer for the whole world, thou didst instruct everyone in reverence and brotherly love, thus with trembling we cry to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 7

Through wondrous prophecy, O blessed one, the Lord showed forth the venerable Seraphim of Sarov to be thy good guide, for receiving his name in the Schema thou wast truly manifested to be a new comforter to all who call upon thee; and we, marveling at God's good favor, cry to thee:

Rejoice, fervent intercessor before God for all.
Rejoice, well-pleasing one to the Most Blessed Sovereign Lady.
Rejoice, sweet conversor with the angels.
Rejoice, ascetic co-laborer with the spirit-bearing fathers.
Rejoice, blessed protector of the Orthodox.
Rejoice, radiant light for those lost in the darkness of godlessness.
Rejoice, reconciliation of sinners to God.
Rejoice, fountain of joy and tenderness.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa.

Kontak 8

It is strange and disquieting to this vain world to hear how through prayer, O wonder-worker, the richness of God's mercy is poured out upon all who flee to thy heavenly protection. We, therefore, glorify the Holy Trinity Who gave thee this grace, joyfully crying out: Alleluia!

Ikos 8

Thou gavest thy whole self to the service of God and people, O marvelous father, commanding thy spiritual children to meditate always on heavenly things and to fervently labor in the Jesus prayer, through which every sin of the soul is cut off and the spirit of man is united to the Spirit of God. Beneath thy wondrous blessing we run and with love magnify thee:

Rejoice, dweller of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Rejoice, beholder, even in this life, of the unspeakable glory of the Savior.
Rejoice, bearer of our prayers to the feet of the Almighty and the Theotokos.
Rejoice, loving father, giver of beneficial things to those who ask.
Rejoice, faithful servant of Christ's holy Church.
Rejoice, physician of incurable spiritual infirmities.
Rejoice, foreseer of the coming wondrous age.
Rejoice, speedy deliverance from present corrupt circumstances.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

Kontak 9

All the heavenly powers were amazed at thy humility and patience, O holy one, seeing thee afflicted with suffering through sickness; thus wast thou providentially sent away from the Lavra by godless persecutors. The people then beheld thee in the town of Vyritsa continuously and miraculously protected by the Theotokos, singing to the Lord, the Lover of mankind: Alleluia!

Ikos 9

The multitude of human speech and eloquence falls silent before thy great podvigs, O venerable one, for, although elderly and weak of body, thou didst take upon thyself many labors. Therefore, marveling at the power of God made perfect in thee, we cry:

Rejoice, skillful follower of the desert dwellers of old.
Rejoice, constant lover of the life of fasting.
Rejoice, zealous and ardent intercessor for the poor.
Rejoice, wondrous conqueror of bodily infirmities.
Rejoice, humble concealer of thy virtues.
Rejoice, for with tears thou didst multiply the fruits of God's grace.
Rejoice, guardian of the oil of joy through watchfulness.
Rejoice, for by thy life thou wast well-pleasing unto God.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

Kontak 10

Thou didst beseech the Lord to save holy Rus' from foreign invaders, O marvelous lover of God, praying, “O Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on our country and Thy world.” Thus, calling upon the Lord with tenderness of heart, like unto the elder of Sarov, thou didst take upon thyself a new podvig - kneeling on a rock in intercessory prayer. Therefore, we glorify the Lord Who strengthened thee, chanting the hymn of victory: Alleluia!

Ikos 10

Thine unseen prayer was a wall of protection, O God-pleaser, to the warriors and people of Russia during the years of heavy tribulation. With the spiritual mind thou didst comprehend that these afflictions were allowed by God because of apostasy, thus thou didst call to the people who had turned away from God, “Return to Christ!” Hence, from all dangers that can be do thou deliver us who sing to thee,

Rejoice, imbiber of the cup of suffering for thy fatherland to the end.
Rejoice, intercessor for mercy from the Lord unto the Russian land.
Rejoice, gift of help to Christ-lovers serving in the arm forces.
Rejoice, living renewal of our souls and bodies.
Rejoice, willing endurance of a bloodless sacrifice.
Rejoice, for thou didst understand human weakness.
Rejoice, protector of the Russian land and the whole world by prayer.
Rejoice, powerful deliverance from enemies seen and unseen.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

Kontak 11

A tender song we bring to thee, O venerable father Seraphim, magnifying thine earthly life full of many labors; therefore pray unceasingly to the Lord for us, that He would grant unto us remission of sins, victory over the passions, and through being made firm in every virtue and guarding peace of soul we may be vouchsafed, unworthy though we be, to sing the song of thanksgiving, together with thee, in the Heavenly Kingdom: Alleluia!

Ikos 11

We behold thee as a shining preacher to those in the darkness of godlessness, all-blessed father; foreseeing the spiritual rebirth of Russia thou didst command thy countrymen to hold fast the Orthodox Faith, therefore with love we cry to thee:
Rejoice, thou who didst commune with the Eternal King.
Rejoice, ray of the Divine Sun.
Rejoice, radiant mercy that warms our souls.
Rejoice, instructor who awakens the spiritual mind.
Rejoice, luminous lamp, illumining many people.
Rejoice, man of prayer, through whom the snares of the enemy are destroyed.
Rejoice, guardian of purity of heart.
Rejoice, teacher of Christian perfection.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

Kontak 12

While praying the akathist to the Mother of God thy blessed end was revealed to thee, O Godly-wise father. The Most-Pure Lady visited thee, appearing clearly and not in a dream, and by her right hand she showed thee thine approaching departure to heaven. With what praises can we worthily magnify thee, O chosen one of the Heavenly Queen, who doth now sing with the angelic ranks: Alleluia!

Ikos 12

Singing to God Who is marvelous in His saints, we believe that the prayers of the righteous accomplish much with the All-Compassionate Master, and therefore we beseech thee, O venerable father, be unto us a fervent intercessor before the Throne of the Most-Holy Trinity, as we sing to thee:

Rejoice, namesake of the fiery seraphim.
Rejoice, receiver of spiritual eldership.
Rejoice, untiring laborer in the field of Christ.
Rejoice, diligent planter of the peace of God.
Rejoice, new and beautiful adornment of the Orthodox Church.
Rejoice, great boldness before God for much suffering Rus'.
Rejoice, mighty protector of the Christian race.
Rejoice, for we know thee to be a true intercessor for our salvation.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

Kontak 13

O praised and marvelous God-pleaser and wonder-worker, Seraphim of Vyritsa, receive our fervent prayers which we offer to thee with love. Entreat the All-Compassionate Lord to deliver us from all evil and misfortune, that we may pass the remaining time of this life in every virtue, and be vouchsafed by thy prayers the eternal and blessed life; thus we sing with thanksgiving to the Lord for thee: Alleluia! (Repeat 3x)

Ikos 1

Possessing angel like beauty in thy soul, O venerable father, thy heart was all aflame for the Lord of Hosts; from thy youth didst thou desire to serve Him alone, revealing true obedience to thy Creator. We marveling at the providence of God manifested in thee, cry with faith:
Rejoice, worthy youth of virtuous parents.
Rejoice, thou who from thy youth didst love the Lord with all thy soul.
Rejoice, reverent zealot of the Divine Services.
Rejoice, contemplative beholder of the world of spiritual tenderness.
Rejoice, diligent practitioner of pure prayer with all thy heart.
Rejoice, thou who didst strive with contrition of heart wholly for God.
Rejoice, thou who didst open up thy heart to a schema monk of the Lavra.
Rejoice, for thorough him thou didst find the will of God for thyself.
Rejoice, venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

Kontak 1

Venerable father Seraphim, chosen and well-pleasing to Christ, blessed protector and radiant beacon of the Orthodox Faith and the Russian land, the miraculous image of salvation was revealed in thee, for by thy works thou didst strive for the priceless mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven. Unto thine intercessions we run, and a song of praise we bring unto thee, crying out with love:
Rejoice O venerable wonder-worker Seraphim of Vyritsa!

A Prayer to St. Seraphim of Vyritsa

O divinely blessed and most-merciful father Seraphim! We behold thee, even after thy death, truly alive and with faith we fall down before thee crying, forget not thy paupers to the end, but look with mercy on us thy spiritual flock, and shepherd us, O good pastor, with thy prayers, which are well-pleasing to God. Ask for us of the Lord time for repentance and the correction of our sinful ways, since thou dost clearly see all our spiritual infirmities; for we have no works of faith for salvation, we have no zeal for a truly God-pleasing life, our minds are captive to death-bearing passions, and we defile our hearts with foul lusts. We carelessly disregard the very blessed things we claim to await and hope for, thereby destroying the temple of our souls. O holy father, stretch forth thy hands in prayer to the Lord and entreat the Savior to touch the human race and our stony hearts with His grace, wash us with tears of repentance, renew us in faith, strengthen us in virtue, and give unto us everything beneficial for our salvation. Let us not be put to shame for we have put our hope in thee, together with our Lord God and the Most-Pure Theotokos; be unto us a sure and quick helper, a comforter in afflictions, and a protector in the various circumstances of life. Make us worthy, O holy Seraphim, by thy prayers of the delights of the Heavenly Kingdom, where all the saints unceasingly praise and glorify the All-Immaculate and Greatly Marvelous Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen. 

Troparion tone 4

As a bright star of the Russian land thou didst shine forth from Vyritsa, O venerable father Seraphim; and guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit,  thou hast illumined our country with the light of thy miracles. Thus we flee to thy relics for refuge crying out with compunction: Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved!

Kontakion Tone 5

Imitating the God-bearing saint of Sarov, thou didst acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit in abundance, thou fragrant vessel of St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra and boast of the town of Vyritsa; therefore we cry to thee: Rejoice, venerable father Seraphim our merciful intercessor before the Lord.


We magnify thee, O venerable father Seraphim; and we venerate thy holy memory, instructor of monastics and conversor with the angels! 

Translated from Russian by Fr. Zechariah & Mat. Natalia Lynch. 

A brief life may be found here:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

True Freedom

Excerpted from the book: The Struggle for Virtue, Asceticism in Secular Society, Chapter 6, The Christian Understanding of Freedom, pp. 79-83, 85. Holy Trinity Publications.
Available for purchase here:

One may easily hear the prophetic voice of Archbishop Averky, most of all considering that these talks were given shortly after World War II. With the eyes of the spirit, he clearly foresaw the end of the path upon which humanistic freedom was leading mankind. A very timely, sober, and challenging message. One we and our world must heed.

True freedom, which grants happiness, is freedom from sin. Is this how contemporary people understand freedom, and is this the freedom they seek?

Unfortunately, no. Modern man's conception of freedom is completely different. Therefore, chasing after illusory freedom, he has fallen into the most cruel slavery that can be imagined … self asserting pride is the guiding force in the life of modern man. This pride has rejected God and declared that man is god unto himself. There is no sin; anything is lawful and allowable for man. Any restriction, any constraint upon his sinful will seems to him a violation of his freedom. He understands freedom as the right and the opportunity to do anything he desires. No one may restrain the man-god in his freedom. “I want, I have the right,” becomes the slogan of modern man. “In struggle you take your rights,” “life is a battle,” “struggle for existence” - these slogans become the guiding principles of modern life. And truly life has become a battle: a fierce battle for existence, or rather for lordship, for predominance, for exclusive possession of all earthly goods. It's only natural. One says, “I want, I have the right.” Another says, “”I want, I have the right,” and yet a third says the same, adding, “I'm no worse than they,” and on and on. This results in a dreadful conflict of human wills and claims regarding the right to do something or other, or to possess the good things in life. From this comes envy, jealousy, rivalry, hatred, enmity, robbery, murder, discord, wars – in a word, all that makes man's life hell. Where does this come from?

All of it stems from an incorrect understanding of freedom. Instead of freedom from sin, people began to strive for the freedom to sin. True freedom, freedom of spirit, Christian freedom came to be considered “despotism,” “coercion,” the oppression of the Church, while the dissipation of one's sinfull will, which leads to enslavement of the spirit, was made life's ideal. True freedom was exchanged to an illusory freedom that in fact leads to true despotism, the the agonizing tyranny of sin. For nothing on earth tortures or tyrannizes man as does sin, as a sinful passion that he has carelessly allowed to enslave him … To such a person, Christian freedom seems to be slavery, despotism. “The fleshly man,” says St. John of Kronstadt, “considers attending church, prayer fasting, abstinence, and all the instructions and demands of the Church to be slavery, and he does not know that these are requirements of his own soul.” Thus is distorted and misunderstood the true essence of things by all those who are controlled by passions.

Beginning with the era of humanism, man began to move away from God in his way of thinking. He then began to lose the conception of true freedom, Christian freedom, freedom of spirit. So began his pursuits of illusory freedom – Freedom from anything restraining man's animal instincts – that is, to put it bluntly, a cynical yearning for licentiousness and dissipation in everything. It is in the name of this freedom, which brings a complete degradation or morals and innumerable disasters for mankind, that all the revolutions were fought, when rivers of blood were shed and human brutality reached its apex.

The most terrible thing is that, as we have said, the evil of our times has cleverly disguised itself as good, and therefore, the slogans of these revolutions seemed very seductive. In recent times, particularly enticing and fashionable have been such slogans as “freedom of conscience,” freedom of the press,” “freedom of speech,” “freedom of assembly,” etc. To many it seemed that these freedoms are the embodiment of supreme justice.

We have now seen what the realization of these “freedoms” has brought in actuality. In place of the expected freedom and earthly paradise, cruel slavery, not only spiritual but even physical, has followed. These “freedoms” turned out to be necessary only for those who needed free rein to sow evil among people unhindered, and to set them against each other. Instead of freedom from evil there is freedom for evil. Do people need such freedom? Is there happiness in such “freedom”? Of course not!

The decisive factor in (modern man's) life is the very self-asserting pride that cannot and does not want to submit to any restraints or limits imposed upon the sinful human will, no matter how reasonable. Instead of true freedom, moral dissipation has become the characteristic sign of our time. And this moral dissipation has led to the fact that shameless, dishonest, and insolent people, as the Word of God calls them (cf. 2 Tim. 3:4), have begun to prevail over those who are modest and conscientious. Under the pretense of “freedom,” the wicked and the strong have enslaved the good and the weak. Thus, the hypocritical advocacy of freedom, the call to defend the rights of man, in fact result in the destruction of any and all freedom, in the loss of the most basic human rights. And where this imaginary freedom has not yet brought about such external enslavement and spiritual oppression, there reigns complete moral dissipation, and the people are suffocating in an atmosphere of hypocrisy, lies, and every crudity.

For us Christians, especially those who have now witnessed such unequivocally terrible fruits of these imaginary freedoms, it should be clear that the salvation, happiness and well-being of humanity lies not in dissipation nor in unrestrained passions, but in the search for true freedom – Christian freedom, which is in the deliverance of man's soul form the sin which torments it.