Blessed Father Seraphim Rose (1934 - 1982)
Nothing to do with sleek businessmen, fast food chains or investment schemes. And many
Russian Christians will recognize him right away: few Christian stores or church book
counters would not carry translations from Fr. Seraphim Rose.
It should be noted, however, that his apostleship — to Russia or to any other nation
into whose languages his works are translated — did not emerge until he finished his
earthly sojourn: he died in September, 1982 at the age of 48, and the twentieth
anniversary of his untimely death is solemnly observed these days all over the globe.
And here on earth he lived in a tiny Orthodox monastic community in the mountains of
North California, constantly immersed into the church service cycle, into research,
writing, editing and publishing work, translating treasures of Christian heritage into
English, responding to letters from readers and inquirers, attending to the daily needs
like gardening, firewood, truck engine and printing equipment, and praying in silence.
Who was he, that humble, reticent priest-monk? Eugene Rose before monasticism, younger
son of a janitor, born in San Diego, CA, in his school and college years he had little
involvement with, or interest for Christianity. But he had a bright, inquisitive mind
and an honest heart, yearning for the truth — and that has made all the difference.
He studied Buddhism under Alan Watts in San Francisco and Chinese philosophy in the
University of California, Berkeley, excelling in any field he touched and realizing at
the same time that the full truth had to be found elsewhere… As he later recalled,
“…a new idea began to enter my awareness: that Truth was not just an abstract idea,
sought and known by the mind, but rather something personal - even a Person - sought
and loved by the heart. And that is how I met Christ”. [...]
From "Remembering Fr. Seraphim" (Orthodox America, Aug.-Sep. 1982):
From "God’s Revelation to the Human Heart" by Fr. Seraphim (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1987):
- In conversation he was the proverbial “man of few words”. He had no interest in idle
chatter, seldom expressed a personal preference for anything, and disliked fakery of
all kinds, often speaking of the “Disneyland mentality” of America which was making it
impossible for people to seek and find the truth (Such aversion to Disney, in those
years ostensibly innocent, seemed strange to many - but soon the cat will be out of the
bag, and in 1996 American Christians will begin boycotting Disney – ed.).
He worried about the fact that most of us were “unconscious”: we were so abysmally
ignorant of the great truths of our Faith… “Be awake, aware, informed!...” - he would
plead, - “Don’t keep Orthodoxy to yourself as though it were some private treasure.
- Fr. Seraphim was an inspiration for thousands of people. He gave some of the most
inspiring sermons ever uttered in the English language. His constant counsel was: “Never
excuse yourself. If you must, or think you must, give way to a weakness, then be certain
to recognize it as a weakness and a sin. But see your own faults and condemn not your
During the latter portion of his life, Fr. Seraphim continually emphasized the need for
spiritual attentiveness in preparation for struggles to come. He seemed to have an
awareness, a foreknowledge of apocalyptic times ahead. His message was conveyed in a
well-known phrase: “It is later than you think!”
- The death of Fr. Seraphim produced a spiritual phenomenon untold of in our times. Lying
in state in a crude wooden coffin in the humble monastery church, not only did the body
remain soft and life-like in the summer heat, but so comforting was his face that one
could not bear to cover it, in the traditional monastic way. Even children could hardly
move away from the coffin, since the body brought such internal peace and suggested such
love. Everyone was aware that, in our times, among us, a holy man had left in his body a
phenomenon that challenges science and our hearts.
"...Is there a special organ for receiving revelation from God? Yes, in a certain sense
there is such an organ, though usually we close it and do not let it open up: God’s revelation
is given to something called a loving heart. We know from the Scriptures that God is love;
Christianity is the religion of love (you may look at the failures, see people who call
themselves Christians and are not, and say there is no love there; but Christianity is indeed
the religion of love when it is successful and practiced in the right way)… If you ask anyone
who knew Archbishop John what it was that drew people to him - and still draws people who never
knew him - the answer is always the same: he was overflowing with love; he sacrificed himself
for his fellow men out of absolutely unselfish love for God and for them. This is why things
were revealed to him which could not get through to other people and which he never could have
known by natural means. He himself taught that, for all “mysticism” of our Orthodox Church that
is found in the Lives of the Saints and the writings of the Orthodox Elders, the Orthodox faithful
always has both feet firmly on the ground, facing whatever situation is right in front of him.
It is in accepting given situations, which requires a loving heart, that man encounters God.
This loving heart is why anyone comes to a knowledge of the truth...
The opposite of the loving heart that receives revelation from God is cold calculation, getting
what you can out of people; in religious life, this produces fakery and charlatanism of all
descriptions. If you look at the religious world today, you see that a great deal of this is
going on: so much fakery, posing, calculation, so much taking advantage of the winds of fashion..." [...]
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