During his lifetime, Hieromonk Seraphim Rose was known personally by only a few hundred people--those he knew in San Francisco before the Brotherhood of St. Herman moved to its remote, forested mountaintop, those who made the long and sometimes difficult pilgrimage to the Monastery, and the others he served in our mission territory. However, many thousands knew him through his books and articles, a torrent which poured from his pen in both English and Russian during the last 19 years.
These writings may be divided into two major categories--translations, and theological commentary; but before discussing them it is necessary to understand something of the spirit that inspired them.
Little children, it is the last hour. (I John 2:18)
Although Fr. Seraphim put his mind, heart and soul into everything he wrote, a lecture he gave at the St. Herman Winter Pilgrimage at Holy Trinity Monastery in New York in 1979 (published as "Orthodoxy in the USA" in Orthordox Word, #91, 1980) expressed the dominant concern of all his work: "How do we remain Orthodox and develop our Orthodoxy against the spirit of worldliness that attacks us on all sides?" He feared that "Orthodoxy in America, if left to itself, would simply turn into an 'Eastern-rite Protestantism'--that is, it would retain some of the externals of Orthodoxy, but inwardly would be scarcely different from worldly Protestantism.''
How do we combat the influence of worldliness in our attempt to follow Christ? "By fighting an INWARD SPIRITUAL BATTLE against worldliness .... (Orthodoxy) is something first of all of the heart, not just the mind, something living and warm, not abstract and cold .... A person who takes Orthodoxy seriously and begins to really work on understanding it with his heart and changing himself has at least a little of a quality we might call the fragrance of true Christianity .... This kind of Orthodoxy cannot be acquired overnight; it requires suffering, experience, testing. But first of all it requires RESOLVE."
He himself recognized this kind of "resolve" in the lives of the saints; he believed that "a touchstone of true Orthodoxy is the love for Christ's saints," and so he translated numerous such lives in order that English-speaking readers might be as inspired by them as he was. Notable among his labors in this regard is The Northern Thebaid, a magnificent collection of the lives of saints of the Russian north. Fr. Seraphim also translated St. Gregory of Tours' Vita Patrum, making available for the first time in English the little known Lives of Saints of 5th and 6th century Gaul. Many of these have already appeared in The Orthodox Word and, with God's help, the entire collection will soon be ready to be published as a book.
Another group of saints, which are for us perhaps the most powerful examples today of genuine Christianity born of suffering, is Russia's New Martyrs. The monastery's magnum opus (650 pages), Russia’s Catacomb Saints, is largely based on material translated and edited by Fr. Seraphim who was always very inspired by the fervent Orthodoxy of the persecuted Church behind the Iron Curtain. At the time of Fr. Seraphim's death the printing of this book had just been completed, and it will soon be available.
In his concern for genuine Orthodoxy, Fr. Seraphim stressed the importance of being "in tune" with the Holy Fathers. A few years ago the monastery published a very significant book, Paisius Velichkovsky, which is a key to our link with the Holy Fathers. More than hagiography, it describes the spiritual thirst for practical guidance which, Fr. Seraphim often said, should also be our motivation in reading the Holy Fathers. For this reason he was particularly anxious to make available the writings of the more "modern" Holy Fathers. Just days before he went to the hospital, he completed the last installment of his translation of the first part of Bishop Theophan's book, The Path to Salvation, which will also be available soon as a short book. Another series which Fr. Seraphim had worked on is called "Our Living Links with The Holy Fathers"--accounts of contemporary Orthodox writers and leaders who may be called the "spiritual heroes" of today.
Fr. Seraphim also translated and wrote articles on the earlier Fathers of the Church, notably St. Symeon the New Theologian (published by the Brotherhood under the title The Sin of Adam), Blessed Augustine, and others. His greatest contribution, however, in making Orthodox theological texts available in English, is his translation of Fr. Michael Pomazansky's book, Dogmatic Theology. Fr. Seraphim regarded this as a masterpiece; it is thorough without being academic and will be an indispensable explanation of the Orthodox Faith. By God's Providence, Fr. Seraphim made the final corrections over the summer and it only remains for it to be printed.
He was also aware of the need for Orthodox commentaries on Scripture. Already his translation of Archbishop Averky' s commentary on the Apocalypse is now being serialized in The Orthodox Word. It is hoped that Fr. Seraphim’s series of lectures on the books of Daniel and Genesis which he delivered at the St. Herman Summer Pilgrimages will also be made available. His lectures on Genesis came as a result of research in preparation for a book on the Orthodox view of creation. This too, God willing, will be printed in the near future.
In response to urgent inquiries from spiritual children all over the world, Fr. Seraphim authored two books of particular importance to our times, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, and The Soul After Death. The first of these is a tremendous collection of essays which examine the whole modern phenomenon of anti-Christianity--the proliferation of Eastern religions and the spirit of the times which paved the way for their wide-spread acceptance. This book is a feast for the intellect as well as the soul, thought-provoking, at times frightening, always apocalyptic, inspired by this line from Scripture: "Little children, it is the last hour"(I John 2:18).
The Soul After Death was written at the request of many in the Church, including some among the clergy and hierarchy, Who wished to see a straight-forward presentation of the Church's traditional teaching concerning what happens after death. Fr. Seraphim also included in this work a fascinating Orthodox interpretation of modern "after-death", "out of-body," and occult and psychic experiences. Both scholarly and sobering, this book has answered the questions of many, even among non-Orthodox, who have been searching for true Christian teaching concerning this subject.
These last two books have been "bestsellers" in Orthodox circles and are now out of print. There is an urgent need to reprint them now, for they are not only timely, but timeless. There is clearly an equally pressing need to make available his other writings. The time has come for all those that have been nourished by Fr. Seraphim's writings throughout the years to step forward and help us to print these books. Doing so will insure the continuation of his mighty work, and thus aid the mission of true Orthodoxy in the English language.
In this, the eighth decade of the second millenium after Christ, Orthodoxy has lost a powerful voice. But that loss is not irrevocable, for Fr. Seraphim can still, reach many hearts and souls as long as his writings continue to be printed. Please, help us in this holy labor!
Fr. Alexey Young
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