All these signs of the times
are very negative. They are signs that they world is collapsing, that the
end of the world is at hand and that the Antichrist is about to come.
It's very easy to look at all these negative signs of the times and get into
such a mood that we look only for negative things. In fact, one can
develop a whole personality—a negative kind of personality—based on this.
Whenever some new news item comes in, one says, "Aha, yes of course,
that's the way it is, and it's going to get worse." The next one
comes in and one says, "Yes, yes, it's obvious that's what's going to
happen, and now it's going to be worse than that." Everything one
looks at is seen merely as a negative fulfillment of the horrible times.
It's true that we have to be aware of these things and not
be unduly optimistic about contemporary events, because the news in our times
is seldom good. At the same time, however, we have to keep in mind the
whole purpose of our watching the signs of the times. We watch the signs
of the times not just so we can see about when Antichrist is going to
come. That's rather a secondary thing. We watch the signs of the
times so we can know when Christ is going to come. That is a very
fundamental thing we have to keep in mind so we do not get overwhelmed by
gloom, depression, or stay to ourselves, storing up food for the great calamity.
That's not a very wise thing. We have to be, rather, all the more
Christian, that is, thinking about other people, trying to help others.
If we ourselves are cold and gloomy and pessimistic, we are participating in
this coldness which is a sign of the end. We have to ourselves be warm
and helping each other out. That's the sign of Christianity.
If you look at history (in fact, this is another good reason
for reading Church history), you see that throughout the whole history of
mankind, throughout the Old Testament, the New Testament and all the Christian
kingdoms afterwards—and if you look at the pagan world, the same story—there's
a continual time of sufferings. Where Christians are involved there are
trials and persecutions, and through all of these Christians have attained the
kingdom of heaven.
Therefore, when the time of the
persecutions come, we are supposed to rejoice. There was a good
little incident related in Fr. Dimitry Dudko's little newspaper. A woman
in Russia was
put in a psychiatric clinic for making the sign of the Cross in the wrong place
or for wearing a cross, or something like that. Fr. Dimitry and his
spiritual children traveled to Moscow,
went tot he clinic, made an appointment and talked to the doctor, and they
finally persuaded him that she shouldn't be there. Fr. Dimitry says,
"They're actually afraid of us, because when you press them about it, they
say they haven't really got any law by which they can keep her
there." So finally they agreed to let her go, after she had been
there for a week. When she was there they gave her various drugs and
"inoculations," trying to break her down and get rid of her
religion. When she came out she was a little shaken up. She sat
down on a bench someplace outside the clinic and began to talk. "You
know," she said, "when I was there and they were treating me so
awful, I felt calm because I felt there was Someone
there protecting me; but as soon as I got out here, all of a sudden I'm
afraid. Now I'm all upset and scared that they are going to come after me
again, that the secret police are looking right around the corner."
It's obvious why this is so. When you're in conditions of persecution,
Christ is with you because you're suffering for Him. And when you're
outside, then there's the uncertainty of whether you might not get back into
that condition. You begin to go back to your own human
understanding. When you're there you have nothing else to rely on, so you
have to have Christ. If you haven't got Christ, you have nothing. When
you're outside, you begin to calculate and to trust yourself, and then you lose
1A talk given at St. Herman's Women's' conference in Redding, California, in the summer of 1980. This talk, which has
never before appeared in print, was transcribed from the tape archives of the
St. Herman Brotherhood. Fr. Seraphim gave another talk on the same
subject in May of 1981, at the University of California, Santa Cruz. That talk, entitled "Signs of the Coming
of the End of the World," is available on cassette tape.
2 Fr. Seraphim gave this talk before the publication of his translation
of Archbishop Averky's Commentary on the Apocalypse, first in The Orthodox
Word, and later as a separate book.
3 Since Fr. Seraphim's repose, Orthodox commentaries on the Scriptures
by St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. Theophylact the Bulgarian have been
4 In addition to translating the whole of Archbishop Averky's Commentary
on the Apocalypse, Fr. Seraphim translated some portions of his Commentary on
the Gospels and epistles.
5 Later canonized by the Church in Russia.
6 St. Ignatius' book On the Prayer of Jesus is also in
English. Since Fr. Seraphim's repose, his Brotherhood has published three
books by St. Theophan in English: The Spiritual Life, The
Path to Salvation, and Kindling the Divine Spark.
7 Eusebius lived in the 4th century.
8 Cf. Mark 10:30.
9 The movie The Last Temptation of Christ, which came out several
years after Fr. Seraphim's repose, is more blasphemous than even these
Reprinted from The Orthodox Word
Vol. 34, Nos. 3-4 (200-201) May-August, 1998
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