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THE ORTHODOX WORLD-VIEW

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    THE ORTHODOX WORLD-VIEW by Priest-Monk Seraphim Rose (1934-1982) Before beginning my talk, a word or two on why it is important to have an Orthodox
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 23, 2003
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      THE ORTHODOX WORLD-VIEW
      by Priest-Monk Seraphim Rose (1934-1982)
      Before beginning my talk, a word or two on why it is important to have an
      Orthodox world-view, and why it is more difficult to build one today than
      in past centuries.
      In past centuries -- for example, in 19th century Russia -- the Orthodox
      world-view was an important part of Orthodox life and was supported by the
      life around it. There was no need even to speak of it as a separate thing
      -- you lived Orthodoxy in harmony with the Orthodox society around you, and
      you had an Orthodox world-view provided by the Church and society. In many
      countries the government itself confessed Orthodoxy; it was the center of
      public functions and the king or ruler himself was historically the first
      Orthodox layman with a responsibility to give a Christian example to all
      his subjects. Every city had Orthodox churches, and many of them had
      services every day, morning and evening. There were monasteries in all the
      great cities, in many cities, outside the cities, and in the countryside,
      in deserts and wildernesses. In Russia there were more than 1000 officially
      organized monasteries, in addition to other more unofficial groups.
      Monasticism was an accepted part of life. Most families, in fact, had
      somewhere in them a sister or brother, uncle, grandfather, cousin or
      someone who was a monk or a nun, in addition to all the other examples of
      Orthodox life: people who wandered from monastery to monastery, and fools
      for Christ. The whole way of life was permeated with Orthodox kinds of
      people, of which, of course, monasticism is the center. Orthodox customs
      were a part of daily life. Most books that were commonly read were
      Orthodox. Daily life itself was difficult for most people: they had to work
      hard to survive, life expectancy was not great, death was a frequent
      reality -- all of which reinforced the Church's teaching on the reality and
      nearness of the other world. Living an Orthodox life in such circumstances
      was really the same thing as having an Orthodox world-view, and there was
      little need to talk of such a thing.
      Today, on the other hand, all this has changed. Our Orthodoxy is a little
      island in the midst of a world which operates on totally different
      principles -- and every day these principles are changing for the worse,
      making us more and more alienated from it. Many people are tempted to
      divide their lives into two sharply distinct categories: the daily life we
      lead at work, with worldly friends, in our worldly business, and Orthodoxy,
      which we live on Sundays and at other times in the week when we have time
      for it. But the world-view of such a person, if you look at it closely, is
      often a strange combination of Christian values and worldly values, which
      really do not mix. The purpose of this talk is to see how people living
      today can begin to make their world-view more of one piece, to make it a
      whole Orthodox world-view. at it closely, is often a strange combination of
      Christian values and worldly values, which really do not mix. The purpose
      of this talk is to see how people living today can begin to make their
      world-view more of one piece, to make it a whole Orthodox world-view.
      Orthodoxy is life. If we don't fire Orthodoxy, we simply are not Orthodox,
      no matter what formal beliefs we might hold.
      Life in our contemporary world has become very artificial, very uncertain,
      very confusing. Orthodoxy, it is true, has a life of its own, but it is
      also not very far from the life of the world around it, and so the life of
      the Orthodox Christian, even when he is being truly Orthodox, cannot help
      but reflect it in some way. A kind of uncertainty and confusion have also
      entered into Orthodox life in our times. In this talk we will try to look
      at contemporary life, and then at Orthodox life, to see how better we might
      fulfill our Christian obligation to lead other-worldly lives even in these
      quite terrible times, and to have an Orthodox Christian view of the whole
      of life today that will enable us to survive these times with our faith
      intact.
      Life today has become abnormal
      Anyone who looks at our contemporary life from the perspective of the
      normal life lived by people in earlier times -- say, Russia, or America, or
      any country of Western Europe in the 19th century -- cannot help but be
      struck by the fact of how abnormal life has become today. The whole concept
      of authority and obedience, of decency and politeness, of public and
      private behavior -- all have changed drastically, have been turned upside
      down except in a few isolated pockets of people -- usually Christians of
      some kind -- who try to preserve the so-called "old-fashioned" way of life.
      Our abnormal life today can be characterized as spoiled, pampered. From
      infancy today's child is treated, as a general rule, like a little god or
      goddess in the family: his whims are catered to, his desires fulfilled.; he
      is surrounded by toys, amusements, comforts; he is not trained and brought
      up according to strict principles of Christian behavior, but left to
      develop whichever way his desires incline. It is usually enough for him to
      say, "I want it!" or "I won't do it!" for his obliging parents to bow down
      before him and let him have his way. Perhaps this does not happen all the
      time in every family, but it happens often enough to be the rule of
      contemporary child-rearing, and even the best-intentioned parents do not
      entirely escape its influence. Even if the parents try to raise the child
      strictly, the neighbors are trying to do something else. They have to take
      that into consideration when disciplining the child.
      When such a child becomes an adult, he naturally surrounds himself with the
      same things he was used to in his childhood: comforts, amusements, and
      grown-up toys. Life becomes a constant search for "fun" which, by the way,
      is a word totally unheard of in any other vocabulary; in 19th century
      Russia they wouldn't have understood what this word meant, or any serious
      civilization. Life is a constant search for "fun" which is so empty of any
      serious meaning that a visitor from any 19th-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.
      Some recent observers of our contemporary life have called the young people
      of today the "me generation" and our times the "age of narcissism,"
      characterized by a worship of and fascination with oneself that prevents a
      normal human life from developing. Others have spoken of the"plastic"
      universe or fantasy world in which so many people live today, unable to
      face or come to terms with the reality of the world around them or the
      problems within themselves.
      When the "me generation" turns to religion -- which has been happening very
      frequently in the past several decades -- it is usually to a "plastic" or
      fantasy form of religion: a religion of "self-development" (where the self
      remains the object of worship), of brainwashing and mind-control, of
      deified gurus and swamis, of a pursuit of UFO's and "extra-terrestrial"
      beings, of abnormal spiritual states and feelings. We will not go into all
      these manifestations there, which are probably familiar enough to most of
      you, except to discuss a little later how these touch on the Orthodox
      Christian spiritual life of our days.
      It is important for us to realize, as we try ourselves to lead a Christian
      life today, that the world which has been formed by our pampered times.
      makes demands on the soul, whether in religion or in secular life, which
      are what one has to call totalitarian. This is easy enough to see in the
      mind-bending cults that have received so much publicity in recent years,
      and which demand total allegiance to a self-made "holy man"; but it is just
      as evident in secular life, where one is confronted not just by an
      individual temptation here or there, but by a constant state of temptation
      that attacks one, whether in the background music heard everywhere in
      markets and businesses, in the public signs and billboards of city streets,
      in the rock music which is brought even to forest campgrounds and trails,
      and in the home itself, where television often becomes the secret ruler of
      the household, dictating modern values, opinions, and tastes. If you have
      young children, you know how true this is; when they have seen something on
      television how difficult it is to fight against this new opinion which has
      been given as an authority by the television.
      The message of this universal temptation that attacks men today -- quite
      openly in its secular forms, but usually more hidden in its religious forms
      -- is: Live for the present, enjoy yourself, relax, be comfortable. Behind
      this message is another, more sinister undertone which is openly expressed
      only in the officially atheist countries which are one step ahead of the
      free world in this respect. In fact, we should realize that what is
      happening in the world today is very similar whether it occurs behind the
      Iron Curtain or in the free world. There are different varieties of it, but
      there is a very similar attack to get our soul. In the communist countries
      which have an official doctrine of atheism, they tell quite openly that you
      are to: Forget about God and any other life but the present; remove from
      your life the fear of God and reverence for holy things; regard those who
      still believe in God in the "old-fashioned' way as enemies who must be
      exterminated. One might take, as a symbol of our carefree, fun-loving,
      self-worshipping times, our American "Disneyland"; if so, we should not
      neglect to see behind it the more sinister symbol that shows where the "me
      generation" is really heading: the Soviet Gulag, the chain of concentration
      camps that already governs the life of nearly half the world's population.
      Two False Approaches to Spiritual Life
      But what, one might ask, does all this have to do with us, who are trying
      to lead, as best we can, a sober Orthodox Christian life? It has a lot to
      do with it. We have to realize that the life around us, abnormal though it
      is, is the place where we begin our own Christian life. Whatever we make of
      our life, whatever truly Christian content we give it, is still has
      something of the stamp of the "me generation" on it, and we have to be
      humble enough to see this. This is where we begin.
      There are two false approaches to the life around us that many often make
      today, thinking that somehow this is what Orthodox Christians should be
      doing. One approach -- the most common one -- is simply to go along with
      the times: adapt yourself to rock music, modern fashions and tastes, and
      the whole rhythm of our jazzed-up modern life. Often the more old-fashioned
      parents will have little contact with this life and will live their own
      life more or less separately, but they 20 will smile to see their children
      follow after its latest craze and think that this is something harmless.
      This path is total disaster for the Christian life; it is the death of the
      soul. Some can still lead an outwardly respectable life without struggling
      against the spirit of the times, but inwardly they are dead or dying; and
      -- the saddest thing of all -- their children will pay the price in various
      psychic and spiritual disorders and sicknesses which become more and more
      common. One of the leading members of the suicide cult that ended so
      spectacularly in Jonestown four years ago was the young daughter of a Greek
      Orthodox priest; satanic rock groups like Kiss -- "Kids in Satan's Service"
      -- are made up of ex-Russian Orthodox young people; the largest part of the
      membership of the temple of satan in San Francisco, according to a recent
      sociological survey -- is made up of Orthodox boys. These are only a few
      striking cases; most Orthodox young people don't go so far astray -- they
      just blend in with the anti-Christian world around them and cease to be
      examples of any kind of Christianity for those around them.
      This is wrong. The Christian must be different from the world, above all
      from today's weird, abnormal world, and this must be one of the basic
      things he knows as part of his Christian upbringing. Otherwise there is no
      point in calling ourselves Christian -- much less Orthodox Christians.
      The false approach at the opposite extreme is one that one might call false
      spirituality. As translations of Orthodox books on the spiritual life
      become more widely available, and the Orthodox vocabulary of spiritual
      struggle is placed more and more in the air, one finds an increasing number
      of people talking about hesychasm, the Jesus Prayer, the ascetic life,
      exalted states of prayer, and the most exalted Holy Fathers like St. Symeon
      the New Theologian, St. Gregory Palamas, and St. Gregory the Sinaite. It is
      all very well to be aware of this truly exalted side of Orthodox spiritual
      life and to have reverence for the great saints who have actually lived it;
      but unless we have a very realistic and very very humble awareness of how
      far away all of us today are from the life of hesychasm and how little
      prepared we are even to approach it, our interest in it will be only one
      more expression of our self-centered, plastic universe. "The me-generation
      goes hesychast!" -- that is what some are trying to do today; but in
      actuality they are only adding a new game called "hesychasm" to the
      attractions of Disneyland.
      There are books on this subject now that are very popular. In fact, Roman
      Catholics are going in very big for this kind of thing under Orthodox
      influence and themselves influencing other Orthodox people. For example,
      there is a Jesuit priest, Fr. George Maloney, who writes all kinds of books
      on this subject and translates St. Macarius the Great and St. Symeon the
      New Theologian and tries to get people in everyday life to be hesychasts.
      They have all kinds of retreats, usually "charismatic"; people are inspired
      by the Holy Spirit, supposedly, and undertake all types of these
      disciplines which we get from the Holy Fathers, and which are far beyond
      the level at which we are today. It is a very unserious thing. There is
      also a lady, Catherine de Hueck Doherty (in fact, she was born in Russia
      and became a Roman Catholic), who writes books about Poustinia, the desert
      life, and Molchanie, the silent life, and all these things which she tries
      to put into life like you would have some fashion for a new candy. This, of
      course, is very unserious and is a very tragic sign of our times. These
      kind of exalted things are being used by people who have no idea of what
      they are about. For some people it is only a habit or a pastime; for others
      who take it seriously, it can be a great tragedy. They think they are
      leading some kind of exalted life and really they have not come to terms
      with their own problems inside of them.
      Let me re-emphasize that both of these extremes are to be avoided -- both
      worldliness and super-spirituality -- but this does not mean that we should
      not have a realistic awareness of the legitimate demands which the world
      makes upon us, or that we should cease respecting and taking sound
      instruction from the great hesychast Fathers and using the Jesus prayer
      ourselves, according to our circumstances and capacity. It just has to be
      on our level, down to earth. The point is -- and it is a point that is
      absolutely necessary for our survival as Orthodox Christians today -- we
      must realize our situation as Orthodox Christians today; we must realize
      deeply what times we live in, how little we actually know and feel our
      Orthodoxy, how far we are not just from the saints of ancient times, but
      even from the ordinary Orthodox Christians of a hundred years or even a
      generation ago, and how much we must humble ourselves just to strive as
      Orthodox Christians today.
      What we can do
      More specifically, what can we do to gain this awareness, this realization,
      and how can we make it fruitful in our lives? I will try to answer this
      question in two parts: first, concerning our awareness of the world around
      us, which as never before in the history of Christianity has become our
      conscious enemy; and second, concerning our awareness of Orthodoxy, which,
      I am afraid, most of us know much less than we should, much less than we
      have to know if we wish to keep it.
      First, since whether we wish it or not we are in the world (and its effects
      are felt strongly even in a remote place like our monastery here), we must
      face it and its temptations squarely and realistically, but without giving
      in to it; in particular, we must prepare our young people for the
      temptations facing them, and as it were inoculate them against these
      temptations. We must be aware that the world around us seldom helps and
      almost always hinders the upbringing of the child in the true Orthodox
      spirit. We must be ready every day to answer the influence of the world by
      the principles of a sound Christian upbringing.
      This means that what a child learns at school must constantly be checked
      and corrected at home. We cannot assume that something he is going to learn
      at school is simply something that is profitable or secular and has nothing
      to do with his Orthodox upbringing. He may be taught useful skills and
      facts (although many schools in America today are failing miserably even at
      this; many school teachers tell us that all they can do is keep the
      children in good order in class without even teaching them anything), but
      even if he gets this much, he is also taught many wrong attitudes and
      philosophies. A child's basic attitude towards and appreciation of
      literature, music, history, art, philosophy, even science, and of course
      life and religion -- must come first of all not from school, for the school
      will give you all this mixed up with modern philosophy; it must come first
      from the home and Church, or else he is bound to be miseducated in today's
      world, where public education is at best agnostic, and at worst openly
      atheistic or anti-religious. Of course, in the Soviet Union all this is
      forced upon the child, with no religion whatsoever and an active program of
      making the child an atheist.
      Parents must know exactly what is being taught their children in education
      courses, which are almost universal today in American schools, and correct
      it at home, not only by a frank attitude to this subject (especially
      between fathers and sons -- a very rare thing in American society), but
      also by a clear setting forth of the moral aspect of it which is totally
      absent in public education.
      Parents must know just what kind of music their children are listening to,
      what is in the movies they see (listening and seeing together with them
      when necessary), what kind of language they are exposed to and what kind of
      language they use, and give the Christian attitude to all this.
      Television -- in households where there is not enough courage to throw it
      out the window -- must be strictly controlled and supervised to avoid the
      poisonous effects of this machine which has become the leading educator of
      anti-Christian attitudes and ideas in the home itself, especially to the
      young.
      I speak about the raising of children because this is where the world first
      strikes its blows at Orthodox Christians and forms them in its image; once
      wrong attitudes have been formed in a child, the task of giving him a
      Christian education becomes doubly difficult.
      But it is not only children, it is all of us, who are facing the world
      which is trying to form us in anti-Christianity, by means of schools,
      television, movies, popular music, and all the other influences that pound
      in upon us, most of all in the big cities. We have to be aware that what is
      being pounded in upon us is all of one piece; it has a certain rhythm, a
      certain message to give us, this message of self-worship, of relaxing, of
      letting go, of enjoying yourself, of giving up any thought of the other
      world, in various forms, whether in music, or in movies, television, or
      what is being taught in schools, the way subjects are emphasized, the way
      the background is given, and everything else; there is one particular thing
      which is being given to us. It is actually an education in atheism. We have
      to fight back by knowing just what the world is trying to do to us, and by
      formulating and communicating our Orthodox Christian response to it.
      Frankly, from observing the way Orthodox families in today's world live and
      pass on their Orthodoxy, it would seem that this battle is more often lost
      than won. The percentage of Orthodox Christians who retain their Orthodox
      identity intact and are not changed into the image of today's world, is
      small indeed.
      Still, it is not necessary to view the world around us as all bad. In fact,
      for our survival as Orthodox Christians we have to be smart enough to use
      whatever is positive in the world for our own benefit.
      Here I will go into a few points where we can use something in the world
      which seems to have nothing to do directly with Orthodoxy in order to
      formulate our Orthodox world-view.
      The child who has been exposed from his earliest years to good classical
      music, and has seen his soul being developed by it, will not be nearly as
      tempted by the crude rhythm and message of rock and other contemporary
      forms of pseudo-music as someone who has grown up without a musical
      education. Such a musical education, as several of the Optina elders have
      said, refines the soul and prepares it for the reception of spiritual
      impressions.
      The child who has been educated in good literature, drama, and poetry and
      has felt their effect in his own soul -- that is, has really enjoyed them
      -- , will not easily become an addict of the contemporary movies and
      television programs and cheap novels that devastate the soul and take it
      away from the Christian path.
      The child who has learned to see beauty in classical painting and sculpture
      will not easily be drawn into the perversity of contemporary art or be
      attracted by the garish products of modern advertising and pornography.
      The child who knows something of the history of the world, especially in
      Christian times, and how other people have lived and thought, what mistakes
      and pitfalls people have fallen into by departing from God and His
      commandments, and what glorious and influential lives they have lived when
      they were faithful to Him -- will be discerning about the life and
      philosophy of our own times and will not be inclined to follow the first
      new philosophy or way of life he encounters. One of the basic problems
      facing the education of children today is that in the schools they are no
      longer given a sense of history. It is a dangerous and fatal thing to
      deprive a child of a sense of history. It means that he has no ability to
      take examples from the people who lived in the past. And actually, history
      constantly repeats itself. Once you see that, it becomes interesting how
      people have answered problems, how there have been people who have gone
      against God and what results came from that, and how people changed their
      lives and became exceptions and gave an example which is lived down to our
      own times. This sense of history is a very important thing which should be
      communicated to children.
      In general, the person who is well acquainted with the best products of
      secular culture -- which in the West almost always has definite religious
      and Christian overtones -- has a much better chance of leading a normal,
      fruitful Orthodox life than someone who knows only the popular culture of
      today. 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.
      Therefore, in our battle against the spirit of this world, we can use the
      best things the world has to offer in order to go beyond them; everything
      good in the world, if we are only wise enough to see it, points to God, and
      to Orthodoxy, and we have to make use of it.
      The Orthodox World-view
      With such an attitude -- a view of both the good things and the bad things
      in the world -- it is possible for us to have and to fire an Orthodox
      world-view, that is, an Orthodox view on the whole of life, not just on
      narrow church subjects. There exists a false opinion, which unfortunately
      is all too widespread today, that it is enough to have an Orthodoxy that is
      limited to the church building and formal "Orthodox" activities, such as
      praying at certain times or making the sign of the Cross; in everything
      else, so this opinion goes, one can be like anyone else, participating in
      the life and culture of our times without any problem, as long as we don't
      commit sin.
      Anyone who has come to realize how deep Orthodoxy is, and how full is the
      commitment which is required of the serious Orthodox Christian, and
      likewise what totalitarian demands the contemporary world makes on us, will
      easily see how wrong this opinion is. One is Orthodox all the time every
      day, in every situation of life, or one is not really Orthodox at all. Our
      Orthodoxy is revealed not just in our strictly religious views, but in
      everything we do and say. Most of us are very unaware of the Christian,
      religious responsibility we have for the seemingly secular part of our
      lives. The person with a truly Orthodox world-view lives every part of his
      life as Orthodox.
      Let us, therefore, ask here: How can we nourish and support this Orthodox
      world-view in our daily life?
      The first and most obvious way is to be in constant contact with the
      sources of Christian nourishment, with everything that the Church gives us
      for our enlightenment and salvation: the Church services and Holy
      Mysteries, Holy Scripture, the Lives of Saints, the writings of the Holy
      Fathers. One must, of course, read books that are on one's own level of
      understanding, and apply the Church's teaching to one's own circumstances
      in life; then they can be fruitful in guiding us and changing us in a
      Christian way.
      But often these basic Christian sources do not have their full effect on
      us, or don't really affect us at all, because we don't have the right
      Christian attitude towards them and towards the Christian life they are
      supposed to inspire. Let me now say a word here about what our attitude
      should be if we are to obtain real benefit from them and if they are going
      to be for us the beginning of a truly Orthodox world-view.
      First of all, Christian spiritual food, by its very nature, is something
      living and nourishing; if our attitude towards it is merely academic and
      bookish, we will fail to get the benefit it is meant to give. Therefore, if
      we read Orthodox books or are interested in Orthodoxy only to gain
      information -- or show off our knowledge to others, we are missing the
      point; if we learn of the commandments of God and the law of His Church
      merely to be "correct" and to judge the "incorrectness" of others, we are
      missing the point. These things must not merely affect our ideas, but must
      directly touch our lives and change them. In any time of great crisis in
      human affairs -- such as the critical times right in front of us in the
      free world -- those who place their trust in outward knowledge, in laws and
      canons and correctness, will be unable to stand. The strong ones then will
      be those whose Orthodox education has given them a feel for what is truly
      Christian, those whose Orthodoxy is in the heart and is capable of touching
      other hearts.
      Nothing is more tragic than to see someone who is raised in Orthodoxy, has
      a certain idea of the catechism, has read some Lives of Saints, has a
      general idea of what Orthodoxy stands for, understands some of the
      services, and then is unaware of what is going on around him. And he gives
      his children this life in two categories: one is the way most people live
      and the other way is how Orthodox live on Sundays and when they are reading
      some Orthodox text. When a child is raised like that he is most likely not
      going to take the Orthodox one; it is going to be a very small part of his
      life, because the contemporary life is too attractive, too many people are
      going for it, it is too much a part of reality today, unless he has been
      really taught how to approach it, how to guard himself against the bad
      effects of it and how to take advantage of the good things which are in the
      world.
      Therefore, our attitude, beginning right now, must be down-to-earth and
      nominal. That is, it must be applied to the real circumstances of our life,
      not a product of fantasy and escapism and refusal to face the often
      unpleasant facts of the world around us. An Orthodoxy that is too exalted
      and too much in the clouds belongs in a hothouse and is incapable of
      helping us in our daily life, let alone saying anything for the salvation
      of those around us. Our world is quite cruel and wounds souls with its
      harshness; we need to respond first of all with down-to-earth Christian
      love and understanding, leaving accounts of hesychasm and advanced forms of
      prayer to those capable of receiving them.
      So also, our attitude must be not self-centered but reaching out to those
      who are seeking for God and for a godly life. Nowadays, wherever there is a
      good-sized Orthodox community, the temptation is to make it into a society
      for self-congratulation and for taking delight in our Orthodox virtues and
      achievements: the beauty of our church buildings and furnishings, the
      splendor of our services, even the purity of our doctrine. But the true
      Christian life, even since the time of the Apostles, has always been
      inseparable from communicating it to others. An Orthodoxy that is alive by
      this very fact shines forth to others -- and there is no need to open a
      "department of missions" to do this; the fire of true Christianity
      communicates itself without this. If our Orthodoxy is only something we
      keep for ourselves, and boast about it, then we are the dead burying the
      dead -- which is precisely the state of many of our Orthodox parishes
      today, even those that have a large number of young people, if they are not
      going deeply into their Faith. It is not enough to say that the young
      people are going to church. We need to ask what they are getting in church,
      what they are taking away from church, and, if they are not making
      Orthodoxy a part of their whole life, then it really is not sufficient to
      say that they are going to church.
      Likewise, our attitude must be loving and forgiving. There is a kind of
      hardness that has crept into Orthodox life today: "That man is a heretic;
      don't go near him;" "that one is Orthodox, supposedly, but you can't really
      be sure;" "that one there is obviously a spy." No one will deny that the
      Church is surrounded by enemies today, or that there are some who stoop to
      taking advantage of our trust and confidence. But this is the way it has
      been since the time of the Apostles, and the Christian life has always been
      something of a risk in this practical way. But even if we are sometimes
      taken advantage of and do have to show some caution in this regard, still
      we cannot give up our basic attitude of love and trust without which we
      lose one of the very foundations of our Christian life. The world, which
      has no Christ, has to be mistrustful and cold, but Christians, on the
      contrary, have to be loving and open, or else we will lose the salt of
      Christ within us and become just like the world, good for nothing but to be
      cast out and trodden underfoot.
      A little humility in looking at ourselves would help us to be more generous
      and forgiving of the faults of others. We love to judge others for the
      strangeness of their behavior; we call them "cuckoos" or "crazy converts."
      It is true that we should beware of really unbalanced people who can do us
      great harm in the Church. But what serious Orthodox Christian today is not
      a little "crazy"? We don't fit in with the ways of this world; if we do, in
      today's world, we aren't serious Christians. The true Christian today
      cannot be at home in the world; he cannot help but feel himself and be
      regarded by others as a little "crazy." Just to keep alive the ideal of
      other-worldly Christianity today, or to get baptized as an adult, or to
      pray seriously, is enough to put you into a crazy house in the Soviet Union
      and in many other countries, and these countries are leading the way for
      the rest of the world to follow.
      Therefore, let us not be afraid of being considered a little "crazy" by the
      world, and let us continue to practice the Christian love and forgiveness
      which the world can never understand, but which in its heart it needs and
      even craves.
      Finally, our Christian attitude must be what, for want of a better word, I
      would call innocent. Today the world places a high value on sophistication,
      on being worldly-wise, on being a "professional."
      Orthodoxy places no value on these qualities; they kill the Christian soul.
      And yet these qualities constantly creep into the Church and into our
      lives. How often one hears enthusiastic converts especially, express their
      desire of going to the great Orthodox centers, the cathedrals and
      monasteries where sometimes thousands of the faithful come together and
      everywhere the talk is of church matters, and one can feel how important
      Orthodoxy is, after all. That Orthodoxy is a small drop in the bucket when
      you look at the whole society, but in these great cathedrals and
      monasteries there are so many people that it seems as though it is really
      an important thing. And how often one sees these same people in a pitiful
      state after they have indulged their desire, returning from the "great
      Orthodox centers" sour and dissatisfied, filled with worldly church gossip
      and criticism, anxious above all to be "correct" and "proper" and
      worldly-wise about church politics. In a word, they have lost their
      innocence, their unworldliness, being led astray by their fascination with
      the worldly side of the Church's life.
      In various forms, this is a temptation to us all, and we must fight it by
      not allowing ourselves to overvalue the externals of the Church, but always
      returning to the "one thing needful": Christ and the salvation of our souls
      from this wicked generation. We needn't be ignorant of what goes on in the
      world and in the Church -- in fact, for our own selves we have to know --
      but our knowledge must be practical and simple and single-minded, not
      sophisticated and worldly.
      Conclusion
      It is obvious to any Orthodox Christian who is aware of what is going on
      around him today, that the world is coming to its end. The signs of the
      times are so obvious that one might say that the world is crashing to its
      end.
      What are some of these signs?
      The abnormality of the world. Never have such weird and unnatural
      manifestations and behavior been accepted as a matter of course as in our
      days. Just look at the world around you: what is in the newspapers, what
      kind of movies are being shown, what is on television, what it is that
      people think is interesting and amusing, what they laugh at; it is
      absolutely weird. And there are people who deliberately promote this, of
      course, for their own financial benefit, and because that is the fashion,
      because there is a perverse craving for this kind of thing.
      The wars and rumors of wars, each more cold and merciless than the
      preceding, and all overshadowed by the treat of the unthinkable universal
      nuclear war, which could be set off by the touch of a button.
      The widespread natural disasters: earthquakes, and now volcanoes -- the
      newest one forming not far from here near Yosemite Park in central
      California -- which are already changing the world's weather patterns.
      The increasing centralization of information on and power over the
      individual, represented in particular by the enormous new computer in
      Luxembourg, which has the capacity to keep a file of information on every
      man living; its code number is 666 and it is nicknamed "the beast" by
      those who work on it. To facilitate the working of such computers, the
      American government plans to begin in 1984 the issuance of Social Security
      checks to persons with a number (apparently including the code number 666)
      stamped on their right hand or forehead -- precisely the condition which
      will prevail, according to the Apocalypse (ch. 13) during the reign of
      antichrist. Of course, it doesn't mean that the first person to get
      himself stamped 666 is the antichrist, or the servant of antichrist, but
      once you are used to this, who will be able to resist? They will train you
      first and then they will make you bow down to him.
      Again, the multiplication of false Christs and false Antichrists. The
      latest candidate just this summer spent probably millions of dollars
      advertising his impending appearance on world television, promising to
      give at that time a "telepathic message" to all the world's inhabitants.
      Quite apart from any occult powers that might be involved in such events,
      we already know well enough the opportunities for presenting subliminal
      messages by radio and especially by television, as well as the fact that
      this can be done by anyone with the technology for breaking into normal
      radio and television signals, no matter how many laws there might be
      against it.
      The truly weird response to the new movie everyone in America is talking
      about and seeing: "E.T.", which has caused literally millions of seemingly
      normal people to express their affection and love for the hero, a
      "Saviour" from outer space who is quite obviously a demon -- an obvious
      preparation for the worship of the coming Antichrist. (And incidentally,
      the movie editor of the official Greek Archdiocese newspaper in America,
      an Orthodox priest, has heartily recommended this movie to Orthodox people
      saying that it is a wonderful movie which can teach us about love, and
      everyone should go see it. There is quite a contrast between people who
      are trying to be aware of what is going on, and those who are simply led
      into the mood of the times.)
      I could go on with details like this, but my purpose is not to frighten
      you, but to make you aware of what is happening around us. It is truly
      later than we think; the Apocalypse is now. And how tragicit is to see
      Christians, and above all Orthodox young people, with this incalculable
      tragedy hanging over their heads, who think they can continue what is
      called a "normal life" in these terrible times, participating fully in the
      whims of this silly, self-worshipping generation, totally unaware that the
      fool's paradise we are living in is about to crash, completely unprepared
      for the desperate times that lie just ahead of us. There is no longer even
      a question of being a "good" or a "poor" Orthodox Christian; the question
      now is: will our Faith survive at all? With many, it will not survive; the
      coming
      Antichrist will be too attractive, too much in the spirit of the worldly
      things we now crave, for most men even to know that they have lost their
      Christianity by bowing down to him.
      Still the call of Christ comes to us; let us begin to heed it. The clearest
      expression of this call today is coming from the enslaved atheist world,
      where there is real suffering for Christ and a seriousness of life which we
      are rapidly losing or have already lost. One Orthodox priest in Romania,
      Fr. George Calciu, is now near death in a communist prison for daring to
      challenge young seminarians and students to put off their blind allegiance
      to the spirit of the times and come forward to labor for Christ. After
      speaking of the emptiness of atheism, he tells today's young people: "I
      call you to a much higher flight, to total abandonment, to an act of
      courage which defies reason. I call you to God. To the One that transcends
      the world so that you might know an infinite heaven of spiritual joy, the
      heaven which you presently grope for in your personal hell, and which you
      seek even while in a state of non-deliberate revolt....Jesus has always
      loved you, but now you have the choice to respond to His invitation. In
      responding, you are ordained to go and bear fruit that will remain. To be a
      prophet of Christ in the world in which you live. To love your neighbor as
      yourself and to make all men your friends. To proclaim by every action this
      unique and limitless love which has raised man from the level of a serf to
      that of a friend of God. To the prophets of this liberating love which
      delivers you from all constraint, returning to you your integrity as you
      offer yourself to God."
      Fr. George, speaking to young people who had little inspiration to serve
      Christ's Church because they had accepted the worldly opinion (common also
      among us in the free world) that the Church is only a set of buildings or a
      worldly organization, calls them and us to a deeper awareness of Christ's
      Church and of how our "formal membership" in it is not enough to save us.
      "The Church of Christ is alive and free. In her we move and have our being,
      through Christ Who is her Head. In Him we have full freedom. In the Church
      we learn of truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:32). You are in
      Christ's Church whenever you uplift someone bent down in sorrow, or when
      you give alms to the poor, and visit the sick. You are in Christ's Church
      when you cry out: "Lord, help me." You are in Christ's Church when you are
      good and patient, when you refuse to get angry at your brother, even if he
      has wounded your feelings. You are in Christ's Church when you pray: 'Lord,
      forgive him.' When you work honestly at your job, returning home weary in
      the evenings but with a smile upon your lips; when you repay evil with love
      -- you are in Christ's Church. Do you not see, therefore, young friend, how
      close the Church of Christ is? You are Peter and God is building His Church
      upon you. You are the rock of His Church against which nothing can
      prevail....Let us build churches with our faith, churches which no human
      power can pull down, a church whose foundation is Christ....Feel for your
      brother alongside you. Never ask: 'Who is he?' Rather say: 'He is no
      stranger; he is my brother. He is the Church of Christ just as I am."
      With such a call in our hearts, let us begin really to belong to the Church
      of Christ, the Orthodox Church. Outward membership is not enough; something
      must move within us that makes us different from the world around us, even
      if that world calls itself "Christian" and even "Orthodox." Let us keep and
      nourish those qualities of the true Orthodox world-view which I mentioned
      earlier: a living, normal attitude, loving and forgiving, not
      self-centered, preserving our innocence and unworldliness even with a full
      and humble awareness of our own sinfulness and the power of the worldly
      temptations around us. If we truly live this Orthodox world-view, our Faith
      will survive the shocks ahead of us and be a source of inspiration and
      salvation for those who will still be seeking Christ even amidst the
      shipwreck of humanity which has already begun today.
      Amen, and Glory be to our God.
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