Commemorated on December 18 (Church calendar)
Saint Zoe is mentioned in the account of St Sebastian's martyrdom. She was the wife of the jailer Nicostratus, and was unable to speak for six years. She fell down at the feet of St Sebastian, by her gestures imploring him to heal her. The saint made the Sign of the Cross over the woman, and she immediately began to speak and to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. She said that she had seen an angel holding an open book in which everything St Sebastian said was written. Then all who saw the miracle also came to believe in Christ, the Savior of the world.
Nicostratus and his wife asked for Baptism, and St Sebastian advised Nicostratus to serve Christ rather than the Eparch. He also told him to assemble the prisoners so that those who believed in Christ could be baptized. Nicostratus then requested his clerk Claudius to send all the prisoners to his house. Sebastian spoke to them of Christ, and became convinced of their desire to be baptized. He summoned the priest Polycarp, who prepared them and told them to fast until their Baptism that evening.
Then Claudius informed Nicostratus that the Roman eparch Arestius Chromatus wanted to know why the prisoners were gathered at his house. Nicostratus told Claudius about the healing of his wife, and Claudius brought his own sick sons, Symphorian and Felix to St Sebastian. In the evening the priest Polycarp baptized Tranquillinus with his relatives and friends, and Nicostratus and all his family, Claudius and his sons, and also sixteen condemned prisoners. The newly-baptized numbered sixty-four in all.
Nicostratus, his wife Zoe and brother Castorius, and Claudius, his son Symphorian and brother Victorinus remained in Rome with St Sebastian, refusing to move to a safer place. They gathered for divine services at the court of the emperor together with a secret Christian named Castulus, but soon the time came for them to suffer for the Faith.
The pagans arrested St Zoe first, while she was praying at the grave of the Apostle Peter. At the trial she bravely confessed her faith in Christ. She died, hung by her hair over the foul smoke from a great fire of dung. Her body then was thrown into the River Tiber. Appearing in a vision to St Sebastian, she told him about her death.
also spelled Zoi, Zoa
• pre-union Youth Retreat Report from 2002
• actual video of "sticky blood" (1 minute)
• Orangutans and Palm Oil (20 minutes)
from the life of Russian New Martyr Abbess Sophia of Kiev:
commemorated March 22 (†1941)
...A new calendarist bishop was forced into the convent by GPU agents to serve Liturgy. When the women who attended it came up to kiss the Cross at the end, one after another they spit on the bishop’s hand that held the Cross, and thus an end was put to "renovation” in the Protection Convent, and the bishop learned his lesson and repented.
Hearing about this, Bishop Damascene (Tsedrik, NM †1935) exclaimed with bitterness: "If it were not for women, who else would defend the Church? Let them at least defend it however they can!”
issue #57 July-Aug 1974
ask me for a copy of this article firstname.lastname@example.org
"If we have a good priest (or bishop), we give thanks to God. If a bad one, we endure him."
~old Russian saying
An Orthodox Liturgist’s Pilgrimage Through Advent
John Peter E. Presson, Protopsaltis of the Metropolis of Portland and the West
I must admit –I am as tempted by “The Christmas Blues” as any one else. Between a mix of childhood and adulthood memories, the constant barrage of social “expectations” of the perfect Christmas, the daily news footage of an “up” or “down” holiday season judged by the track of retail sales, and Christmas parties that I can’t eat the food. Additionally, as an Eastern Orthodox Christian who follows the traditional Julian Calendar (celebrating the Birth of the Saviour two weeks after everyone else), I get now up to two months of this nonsense rammed down my throat with the force of a pile driver. And it gets earlier and earlier every year. What’s an Orthodox Christian to do???
The Orthodox Church provides the perfect remedy to “The Christmas Blues” –a firewall between us and the world around us. The 6 week Fast of Preparation that begins the day after the Feast of the Apostle Philip and ends on Christmas Day know as the Nativity Fast or Advent for its focus on the events, persons and prophecies pointing to Our Saviour’s Incarnation in the flesh. Much in the same way as the Lenten Springtime that precedes the Feast of Pascha is intensely liturgical in its focus, so is the Fast of Advent that begins in late November, and ends on December 25 (Old Style). As one who has attended and chanted many of these services, this is one psaltis and liturgist’s little journey through this blessed time:
- For us Advent begins somewhat uneventfully on November 15 –the day after the Feast of the Apostle Phillip, and proceeds as such until November 21.
- November 21 –the Feast of the Entry of the Mother of God Into the Temple. It is on this Feast that we catch the first liturgical glimmers of the joy of Christmas: the Katavasiae from the 1st Canon of the Feast of the Nativity:
Christ is born! Give ye glory! Christ is come from Heaven, receive ye Him! Christ is on earth, be ye exalted! Sing unto the Lord all the earth and sing praises in gladness, O ye peoples; for He is glorified.
To the Son Who was begotten of the Father before the ages without change, and in this last days was without seed made flesh of the Virgin, to Christ our God, let us cry aloud: Thou Who hast raised up our horn: Holy art Thou, O Lord.
Rod of the root of Jesse, and flower that blossomed from his stem, O Christ, Thou hast sprung from the Virgin; from the mountain densely overshadowed has Thou come, O Praised One, made flesh of her that knew no wedlock. O Thou Who art immateriate and God, glory to Thy power, O Lord.
Since Thou art the God of peace and the Father of mercies, Thou hast sent unto us Thine Angel of Great Council, granting us peace. Wherefore having been guided to the light of divine knowledge and watching by night, we glorify Thee, O Friend of man.
The sea-monster spat forth Jonas as it had received him like a babe from the womb; while the Word, having dwelt in the Virgin and taken flesh, came forth from her, yet kept her incorrupt. For being Himself not subject to corruption, He preserved His Mother free from harm.
Scorning the impious decree, the Children brought up in godliness feared not the threat of fire, but standing in the midst of the flames, the chanted: O God of our Fathers, blessed art Thou.
The furnace moist with dew was the image and figure of a wonder past nature; for it burned not the Youths whom it had received, even as the fire of the Godhead consumed not the Virgin’s womb into which it had descended. Wherefore in praise let us sing: Let all creation bless the Lord, and supremely exalt Him unto all the ages
A strange and marvelous mystery do I behold; the cave is a heaven; the Virgin a cherubic throne; the manger a space wherein Christ God the Uncontainable One hath reclined. Him do we magnify.
- From this point we chant these Katavasiae at every Sunday Matins until Christmas, and likewise at every Liturgy we chant the Kontakion of the Fore feast:
On this day the Virgin cometh to the cave to give birth to the Word ineffably, Who was before all the ages. Dance for joy, O earth, on hearing the gladsome tidings; with the Angels and the shepherds now glorify Him Who is willing to be gazed on as a young Child, Who before the ages is God.
- On December 1st, 2nd and 3rd we celebrate the memory of the Prophets Nahum, Abbakum, and Sophanias who all pointed the way to the Advent of Christ.
- On December 6th, we celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra in Lycia –that great archetype of Christian giving, to whom every Christmas gift given must be a reflection of. It is of note that in Orthodox nations (and even in some heterodox European nations) the traditional day of exchanging of gifts is done on this day.
- On the Sunday that falls between December 11-17 (the second Sunday before Christmas) we find the first of the formal “Advent Sundays” –the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers –that is all the Old Testament Patriarchs and Prophets before and after the Law that preceded Christ:
Come, with faith let us all celebrate the annual memory of the Fathers before the Law, even Abraham and those with him. Let us honour, as is meet, the tribe of Judah. With Daniel, let us acclaim as a figure of the Trinity the Children in Babylon, who quenched the flame in the furnace. Cleaving steadfastly to the predictions of the Prophets, let us cry out with a great voice together with Elias: Behold a Virgin shall be with child and she shall bear a Son, Emanuel; which being interpreted is: God is with us!
From the Doxasticon of the Praises of Matins –Forefathers Sunday
- December 17th, we celebrate the Prophet Daniel and the Three Children in Babylon: Ananias, Azarias and Misael.
- The Sunday that falls between December 18 and the 24th is the next formal “Advent Sunday” –the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ –often called the Sunday of the Holy Fathers in which the entire genealogy of the Incarnate Saviour is commemorated from Adam and Eve to St. Joseph and the Theotokos. At Matins, the Synaxarion recounts every one of the Royal Lineage and at the Liturgy, the Gospel of St. Matthew (1:1-25) is read recounting the genealogy.
- December 20th begins the Fore feast for Nativity:
O House of Ephratha, august and Holy City, thou glory of the Prophets, prepare the house wherein the Divine One shall be born for us.
A blessed remainder of the Advent season to all, and wishing you a glorious and peaceful Feast of the One Who is Incarnate for our sakes.
John Peter Edward Presson
Chanted in English
Traditional Byzantine chant stichera verses for this coming Sunday of the Forefathers.
The Stichera and Glory (with the Dogmaticon for Plagal 1st as is this Sunday's mode of the week) for the Sunday of the ForeFathers, the first "Advent" Sunday before Christmas – Also the Aposticha Glory.
The Plagal 1st mode corresponds to the Russian tone 5. The Dogmaticon is found in the Octoechos for tone 5 Great Vespers.
Our ROCOR English Menaion is translated from the Slavonic:
shared by Cristian in Romania
|The Tree flowers twice a year, at Pascha and Nativity,|
The belief that the Glastonbury Holy Thorn blossomed on Christmas Day created great stress in 1753, when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted to bring Britain into line with Europe and eleven days were dropped from the month of September:
...A vast concourse of people attended the noted thorn on Christmas-day, new style; but, to their great disappointment, there was no appearance of its flowering, which made them watch it narrowly the 5th of January, the Christmas-day, old style, when it flowered as usual...
– Evening Post, London January 1753
The Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill, Glastonbury, widely thought to be
on the site of St. Joseph's "original" thorn.
Marion Bowman 2004
p. 95 Highland Cathedral
p. 156 Dictionary of Miracles
p. 1641 Hardwicke's Science-gossip
p. 10 Everyday Book or Everlasting Calendar
p. 123 The Holy Thorn Ceremony
I'm unable to find the quote in the Gentlemen's Magazine
Restaurant Uses Security Footage from a Recent Robbery
and Turns It Into a Funny Commercial
Related short Video: Thief's accomplice loses her own purse in the robbery
ROCOR STUDIES is ROCOR-MP's main rewriting history website in English.
ROCOR STUDIES e-Bulletin #14 (December 21, 2105) begins with a note from the editor:
"I greet you on St. Herman's feast and on Christmas Day if you celebrate it today!..."
rare color photo found on twistedsifter.com
Stolobnyi Island in Lake Seliger in Tver
Stolobnyi Island in Lake Seliger in Tver
rare color photo found on twistedsifter.com
Main purpose of the trip was to give a talk at St. Herman Youth Pilgrimage
During his visit to Jordanville in 1979, Fr. Seraphim noted in his journal some things about then-bishop Laurus and then-father Hilarion. I've highlighted the references without regard to whether it is innocent or ominous.
90 Across the Country
(from a chapter in Not of This World)
...It so happened that during (1979) Fr. Seraphim was to make a pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Monastery, staying there for five days. This was to be the farthest trip of his life. With his monastic proclivity to work out his salvation in one place, it is doubtful that he would have made this trip at all had he not been invited to give lectures at the Holy Trinity Monastery’s annual “St. Herman Pilgrimage” on December 12/25. The priest who wrote him asked him to give two lectures: one called “Orthodoxy in the USA," and another called “Mixed Marriages: How They Affect the Church.” Fr. Seraphim agreed to give the former, but understandably declined the latter.
...By the time of Fr. Seraphim’s pilgrimage to Jordanville, the great Orthodox thinkers and writers there – Archbishop Averky, Archimandrite Constantine, I. M. Andreyev – had already reposed. The righteous Archbishop Andrew (Fr. Adrian) of New Diveyevo Convent in New York had also died only six months before, (June 29/July 12, 1979). Fr. Seraphim was to take his favorite mode of transportation – a train- – all the way across the United States. Before he left, Fr. Herman gave him the obedience of keeping a journal of his trip. This journal, the most detailed record we have of a segment of Fr. Seraphim's life, provides a very insightful picture of who he was and what motivated him at this time, less than three years before his death.
From the journal:
December 3/16, 1979
After the All-night Vigil in the Redding Church of the Most Holy Theotokos “Surety of Sinners," and an abundant meal afterwards, early Sunday morning Father Herman, Br. Theophil, and Sisters Maria, Nancy, and Solomonia saw me (Fr. Seraphim) off at the train depot. All promised to be obedient to Father Herman in my absence and to pray for my trip. Several of the sisters expressed the idea that the trip would be important for what I could say to help put the right spiritual “tone” in the church atmosphere among the Russian youth – the tone of struggle, simplicity, sobriety, and not the cold “correctness” that is so tempting to converts. I will be speaking about these very things. May God help me!
A slight accident marked the beginning of the trip. Before I could find my seat in the train, I bumped my suitcase against a chair and it opened. spilling everything. A small temptation from the evil one! In a few minutes I gathered everything together in the dark and sat down.
My seat companion was a young black boy, and in the morning we had a little talk before he left the train at Davis in order to catch a bus to his home in Fairfield. In the dark I slept with my feet on his basketball, and it turns out he has an athletic scholarship to a Christian Bible college in Portland. His name is Richard Clark ... a very quiet and polite young man, a freshman. I told him a little of myself and my trip and gave him an Orthodox Word, telling him to write if he ever had any questions about Orthodoxy, and asking him to pray for my trip. My first encounter thus was one with the freshness and innocence that still remains in America.
A three-hour wait in the Oakland Amtrak Depot was occupied with letters to Fr. Sergei Kornic, Fr. Alexey Young, and Fr. Herman; with a small meal; and with thoughts on whether I can say what is needed in Jordanville, and whether the youth is ready to listen...
The train went with little incident through California. In the car one woman pointed to me and said: “Ayatollah!”*. . . (Ayatollah Khomeini, an Iranian Muslim leader with a long gray beard, was at that time very much in the news,)
After supper, about on the Nevada border, a young woman with her child greeted me – her husband is Greek Orthodox. The young man sitting behind me heard this and moved next to me, and there began a conversation of several hours on Christianity and religion. He is a disillusioned Protestant, learning Russian in order to be able to go to a land where Christians are persecuted and hopefully are not hypocrites as in the West. He asked many questions, being an ex-charismatic, and I finally gave him Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future to read.
December 4/17, Monday
The whole day we were travelling through Wyoming, a vast state with nothing but frozen, barren hills, and a few small cowboy towns. Why couldn't the smoke of Orthodox prayers go up from this still almost-virgin land? Through much of this landscape I talked more with my young friend, Mark Comstock, who had read and liked the chapter on the “charismatic” movement. He got off the train in the middle of Wyoming, taking a copy of the book and promising to visit our monastery (he lives in Auburn in the Sierras)...
The rest of the day I worked on my talk for Jordanville. May God bless my words and help me to speak for the profit of souls!
I had supper in the dining car, sitting with a mechanic from Oregon and an urbane Anglican from San Diego. The people on trains all seem quite polite and civilized.
December 5/ I8, Tuesday
I awoke after dawn going through Iowa. From Nebraska on (which we passed through last night) it is clearly another part of America – large towns, with very serious farm communities, not the empty, wild west. I like Iowa very much – old-fashioned houses, with the fertile land the obvious center of daily life, and no temporary houses and projects as in California.
At ten a.m. we crossed the vast Mississippi, half filled with ice. Actually, it’s only about twice as wide here as our own Sacramento [River]...
At 1:25 p.m., just on time, the train arrived in Chicago. The two hours before the connecting train to Cleveland were spent in writing postcards, taking a brief look outside the depot in Chicago, and calling Fr. Theodore [Jurewicz] in Cleveland....
December 7/20, Thursday
I spent the day with Fr. Theodore, who gives an impression of light- mindedness but is actually a very serious young priest (just 30 years old). His children keep him busy, but he still has time for painting icons – where his heart obviously lies. For much of the day his young catechumen David was with us – a very quiet, serious young man (18 years old) who wants to be a monk. Fr. Theodore is preparing him for baptism at Christmas. Fr. Theodore took me to his old and new (not yet completed) churches, which were somewhat as in the dream I had of them several weeks ago...
In the evening about twelve parishioners gathered to hear an impromptu talk.... A summary of my talk on the subject of our identity as Orthodox Christians:
Who are we? Does it really make any difference that we are Orthodox Christians rather than Protestants or Roman Catholics, Moslems or Buddhists, or unbelievers?
This question arises because of some tragic cases in which Orthodox young people leave the Orthodox Church. There was a Greek Orthodox girl, daughter of an Orthodox priest in northern California, who evidently didn’t bother to find out what her Church teaches, and joined the community of an evangelist of the so-called “Church of Christ.” He had ideas of communes and appealed to her idealism. She followed him to South America to find a new way of life in a town named after the evangelist – Jonestown. Probably you all know what happened there just one year ago. What is to stop our Orthodox young people from doing things like this?Another example: a young Russian boy who grew up in New jersey. He attended church frequently but didn't really know why he was Orthodox and not something else, or what Orthodoxy is. Having no firm identity and faith to guide him, he easily fell in with what people around him were doing. By the age of 18 he had already married and divorced and was into drugs. I met him then – a basically normal Russian boy, but not quite certain what he was. The next year he was in jail for selling drugs. Within three or four years drugs had become a habit, leading to paralysis. A few months ago he died, bitter and cursing God. Why? – because he didn't know who he was, or what Orthodoxy is.Another example: in San Francisco, a few blocks from one of our Russian Orthodox churches on California Street. is a house painted black; inside is a temple of satan. Recently some sociology professors and students at the University of California at Berkeley made a study of the regular members of this “temple." They found that one of the largest groups of people who belonged were sons and daughters of Russian Orthodox parents; and their theory is that Russian Orthodox children, if hey are not fully aware of their own faith, are easier than others to convert to satanism, because their religion is so demanding, and if they don’t fulfill its demands their souls feel an emptiness.Many people don't realize it, but religion is the most powerful thing in human life. The world is now undergoing what one might call a “religious revival” – but most of it is false religion. Young people, including Russian and other Orthodox young people. are bowing down and worshipping idols in Hindu temples, living "gods" like Maharaj – ji; are meditating in Zen and other pagan temples throughout America; and are committing themselves to fanatical “religious” leaders like Jom Jones – why?I'd like to say a word about my own experience. I was a religious seeker like many young people today – Zen. etc. Then I went to a Russian church for the first time – l felt something then but didn't know until later that this was grace. I met a holy bishop (Archbishop John) and read much about Orthodoxy, its teachings and saints. Finally I became a monk, and went with a young Russian fellow-seeker (and finder) to a wilderness area in northern California to try to imitate in a small way what we had read of desert-loving monks in Russia, and also to continue printing The Orthodox Word which Archbishop John had blessed. As far away as we are from towns and Orthodox people, this past year and a half we have baptized ten people in our monastery (in a week during the summer). And there are four new catechumens. Examples: the guitar-player George, converted by his guitar teacher, a Russian boy, through his icons. Girls from a Protestant community in northern California. A college student converted by reading church history (the Ecumenical Councils. etc.). One new catechumen’s wife is a typical American with a Texas burger stand. What brings them to Orthodoxy? – The grace of God. Many young Orthodox people are losing faith, and God is calling others in. We should become serious about our faith.And what of Russia today? There is a tremendous revival of interest in Orthodoxy after sixty years of deprivation. People are being baptized by the thousands; some don't even know why they are being drawn to the Church – the grace of God is operating.What is happening in Russia today is an example and inspiration to us. An example is Fr. Dimitry Dudko, who spent 8½ years in a concentration camp, suffering much. He gave talks at Vigil services; his legs were broken; he was warned not to talk, because Orthodoxy is dangerous to the government. Other examples: Nun Valeria, Vladimir Osipov, Alexander Ogorodnikov. We should begin helping them: by prayer, by helping with "Orthodox Action," (A society started by Archbishop John) by sending letters (some addresses are in The Orthodox Word).
Aﬁer the talk there was a lively discussion. At midnight Fr. Theodore and David took me to the train depot. The train was an hour late, and we drank coffee together before I left. I was deeply touched by this simple, struggling priest in our American wasteland. Fr. Theodore urged me to visit him again on the way back to California.
December 8/21, Friday
About 8:00 in the morning I was met by Fr. Laurence (Fr. Seraphim's godson, the former Br. Lawrence, who had lived for three years at the St. Herman Monastery) with one of Bp. Laurus’ cars. As we drove the twenty miles to Jordanville I was somewhat apprehensive about what I would find there – perhaps some coldness and criticism. Fr. Laurence warned me on the way not to talk too much about Archbishop John, so it wouldn’t seem I was "bragging," like Archbishop Andrew [Fr. Adrian] "bragged" about knowing Elder Nektary. This caused me more apprehension, even though I had not intended to speak of Archbishop John at all.
We arrived at Jordanville just before noon. I went first to Bp. Laurus' office for a short talk, then to Fr. Vladimir in the office. Then Br. Gregory showed me the church, and we came to the refectory a little late for lunch. The informality of the refectory was a little disconcerting at first. with everyone freely reaching for whatever he wanted, but I soon grew used to it. Fr. Panteleimon (One of the founders of Jordanville monastery reposed in 1984) and Fr. Anthony welcomed me very warmly, as did Fr. Gury and Fr. Germogen, and later Fr. Michael Pomazansky. There was only an inch or two of snow at Jordanville, but the day of my arrival was quite co[d – 5°. It began to warm up the next day, and the snow soon meIted – unusual for this time of year.
After lunch and a rest (by order from Fr. Vladimir) I was taken on a tour of the monastery by Fr. Laurence – library, printshop, bindery, office, barn, vegetable storage, sheds, woodworking shop, seminary – a vast enterprise, with everyone knowing his place.
No one “falls over” me here; I am left pretty much to myself, except when someone wants to talk to me. I got some books from the bookshop today – free from Fr. Vladimir. In the evening, after supper, there was Compline and evening prayers with the moving veneration of all icons by the whole community. But in general I am not “overwhelmed” by the beautiful Jordanville chanting – it is as though I have heard it all through Fr. Herman's accounts.
At night Fr. Peter Herrin left a note on my door to come and see him across the hall. He wants to come to us in Platina in order to “do” more for the Orthodox mission. He is still immature, but I understand his point well – here everyone knows his place and works hard at it, but no one gets very “inspired” or has the “excitement" we know in our missionary labors. I told him to pray and to write Fr. Herman.
I visited Fr. Macarius today – unfortunately, he is rather bored and sleepy; the “low key” atmosphere does not inspire him.
A Serb, Todor, visited me – he is a “zealot” who is interested in our monastery, but I rather discouraged him by telling him we eat three times .1 day, etc.
I had a little talk with Alyosha, a young idealistic seminarian from the Soviet Union; he wants to have Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future’ translated into Russian.
After evening prayers, I attended an English Akathist in the basement church, led by Fr. Ioannikios"‘ for a few converts. (Fr. Ioannikios was a friend and correspondent of Fr. Seraphim. His attempts to institute more English services at Holy Trinity Monastery unfortunately met with resistance and were finally abandoned.)
December 9/22, Saturday
At 5:00 a.m. a sepulchral voice awakened: “Now is the hour of prayer. Lord Jesus Christ God, have mercy on us!" Then a loud buzzer to make sure we get up. Although exhausted, I do make it to church. After morning prayers and Nocturnes I begin to venerate the icons with the monks [who are leaving], and have to be told by Vladika Laurus that these are the working monks, and I should stay.
Today I have talks with Vladika Laurus, Fr. Hilarion (formerly Igor Kapral), and Fr. loannikios. Our problems with the Boston line are discussed a little, but nothing is decided except that everyone wants to avoid fights. It’s obvious the Boston “pull" has ended here for most people, but one must still “take Boston into consideration” and watch what one says. One wishes there were more of an actual “Jordanville line” to answer Boston with – but perhaps the present atmosphere is about as good as one can expect...
At 4:00 p.m. there are Ninth Hour, Small Vespers, Compline, and the Rule before Communion. Fr. Ignaty has me read the Canon to the Guardian Angel.
After supper at 6:00, the Vigil begins at 7:00 p.m. I have been provided with Br. Eugene’s klobuk (which he laments he can’t wear yet) and join the right kliros, harmonizing with Fr. Ignaty (I can't sing as high as he does). The Vigil ends at 11:00 p.m. The singing is excellent, but somehow, even participating in it, I am remote and detached from it. Apparently I’m just not a “people" person – my heart is in the quiet wilderness, though by my deeds I am no desert-dweller at all.
December 10/23, Sunday
After Nocturnes at 8:00, Liturgy begins at 9:30 with the meeting of the bishop. As usual, I become confused what to do and come out late to greet the bishop. I serve together with seven other priests.
Shortly after lunch I am to have a talk for novices and seminarians, but others show up also.
Talk to Jordanville Seminarians and Novices:
I see here future pastors, monks, zealous Orthodox Christians and pilgrims. Who are you? What is your identity? You should be those who realize what Orthodox Christianity is all about and what it means to be Orthodox. Here no one is going to force any of you to have this realization – you have to do it yourself. It's good to think about this from time to time. Are you ready to do what St. Peter says: to give an account of your faith to those without? Once I was picked up on the road to Platina, and at the end of the ride I was asked: can you tell me what Russian Orthodoxy is in five minutes? Maybe you won’t ever have precisely this experience, but something similar may happen to you – and you must be prepared to answer with something deeper than beards and black robes. Often people can find out about faith by very small things – you make the sign of the Cross before eating, or have an icon that someone sees – and people begin to ask you about Faith.
Here are some questions you may be Faced with in life:
1. Why shouldn't I commit suicide? Many young people now do, because there is no meaning in their life. Can you tell them the meaning of life?... Maybe you know about some externals of Christianity – but can you tell what you believe in such a way that someone else might be convinced and saved by it? – This is apologetics, a theology course which is taught in the seminary.
2. Why shouldn’t I join a cult? – Zen, Jim Jones, Hare Krishna, the Moonies. etc. What's wrong with them? You will have a course in comparative religion – but you’ll have to take it seriously in order to answer such questions. You’ll have to know what is true and what is false religion.
3. What's wrong with "born-again" or “charismatic" Christians? If people around you are against them, you'll say they are bad – but you’ll never convince anyone who is involved in them unless you yourself [understand] what is wrong with them. Do you know that people like this – at least some of them – are hungering for Orthodoxy? I know some people like this who were so moved on hearing someone give an account of why he was Orthodox that they came to church and were converted.
In our times you can’t just be Orthodox because your parents were, or because you live in an Orthodox community – you have to have a conscious faith and be ready at any time to give an account of it. And you have to be precise about what Orthodoxy is...
I hope you will concentrate especially on one thing: the living Orthodox word I know Protestants who say: your Orthodox faith is dead. Your services are in a foreign language, with empty rituals, and nobody prays in church. Of course, this is a superficial judgment – but it can be true of many of us.
St. John of Kronstadt is an example of someone who was constantly waking people up. He loved to read Canons and stop to comment on them. Everything he did was living.
The whole of salvation is given to us in our Orthodox church services and prayers – but unless we put our hearts to it, these will be dead for us.
How are you to become informed? You must start paying attention, going deeper into what goes on around you. You have readings of Lives of Saints at meal times, telling about men who lived like angels. People in the world don't even hear of such things – but you have the opportunity if you open your ears.
St. John Chrysostom teaches that it is impossible to be saved without reading spiritual books. Of course, there are exceptions for those in prison camps and the like. But if you have the opportunity and don't use it, what answer will you be able to give?
Which books? – Abba Dorotheos, Unseen Warfare, St. John of Kronstadt, Fr. Dimitry Dudko (Our Hope).
The world is waking up to the treasure of the Orthodoxy which we already have. St. Seraphim’s prophecy of Russia’s resurrection is beginning to happen today...
Towards the end of my talk Vladika Laurus entered together with the Russian writer Soloukhin (author of “Dark Boards,” about ancient icons), who then gave a brief talk and answered questions. He is somewhat religious, sometimes goes to church in Moscow (“we are all baptized"), and spoke of changes for the better in Russia, which make possible his books (which are “secular” appreciation of religious things). His next book is “Optina Hermitage," due to appear in Moscow in January; he has not read Kontzevitch’s book, but plans to read it now. He ended his talk with good comments on modern art (“You can have a poem without rhyme, or without rhythm, or even without meaning – but not without all three in the same poem!") which show that Russian art, after all, has preserved something of the traditional principles of art...
December 11/24, Monday
At 3:00 p.m., the first meeting of the Pilgrimage took place in the Seminary hall. I sat with Fr. Cyprian at the head table and translated his talk with questions and answers afterwards...
At the Vigil I was chief celebrant, which made me nervous as usual, and I made many mistakes. Truly, I am no “professional,” and this is probably best for me. Some of the stichera were sung in English.
After the Vigil Fr. Ioannikios visited me in my cell (he had conducted me to the cemetery on Saturday) and told of some of his sorrows and difficulties. Truly he has a difficult time and is not getting the spiritual help he needs.
December 12/25, Tuesday The Feast of St. Herman
After rather little sleep, I went at 7:00 in the morning to serve Proskomedia; I was rather more apprehensive about serving than I was about speaking later on, but all went well and I didn’t make too many mistakes... Twelve priests served.... The service was very triumphant, with a rousing sermon by Fr. Valery at the end, comparing St. Herman with St. Seraphim. During the sermon Vladika Laurus blessed me to bless the icons of St. Herman I had brought with me, and I distributed them to all the pilgrims when they came to kiss the Cross.
Shortly after lunch everyone met in the Seminary hall, and after Fr. George’s introduction and Vladika Laurus' greeting words, I gave my talk ["Orthodoxy in the U.S.A.”"] – mostly reading from my text, but also adding some things as I went along. About 130 people were present, and all listened quite attentively. (Complete text of this talk was published in Orthodox Word #94 September 1980)
There was a lively discussion [afterwards] concerning how to preserve one’s Orthodoxy, which showed a serious response from many. Need was expressed by several people for Lives of Saints for children, which perhaps seems to be one of the great needs of today.
After the discussion Fr. George described briefly our monastery and the good, quiet feeling he had there, and then showed a few slides he had taken on his visit. Fr. Vladimir Malchenko then showed slides of his visit to Mt. Athos, especially of the abandoned Russian sketes which are falling into ruin. Vladika Laurus ended the Pilgrimage with words of thanks and appreciation – all in a very “low key.” Several people came up to talk to me afterwards, including a young Protestant convert... Many books from the Monastery bookstore were on display, and some people took addresses from Keston College for writing to Orthodox people in Russia and Romania.
[Later] Fr. Valery took me to his cell (the “Metropolitan’s Room") and talked with me about . . . the do-nothingness and bad feeling at the Synod (Headquarters). This is truly a bad symptom of the state of our church life.
After supper and Compline, Br. Eugene came to visit me in my cell. He seems sad, and expressed dissatisfaction at the looseness of life in the Monastery. I told him not to think too highly of himself.
Fr. Hilarion came by to ask me if he could print my talk in Orthodox Life, and then Fr. David, a young ryassophore monk, came by for a long discussion on “fanaticism" and on making Orthodoxy accessible to ordinary Americans. We discussed the word “Christmas,” “label-readers" who warn you of the ingredients of cookies‘ (I told him it was all right to read labels for yourself, but not for others), the new “super-zealous” attitude of the Ipswich parish which is changing from Russian to Greek music because only it is “correct” and prayerful, etc. We agreed on almost everything – I was encouraged by his “normal" attitude towards church matters.
There were discussions in the refectory about my talk (I heard later) until late at night; evidently it roused much interest...
December I3/26, Wednesday
Having gone to bed at 1:00 a.m. I slept through the early service, intending to go to Liturgy. But somehow I thought the bells for Liturgy were the call to Matins, and I came to church only when everything was finished. I went to bid farewell to Vladiika Laurus, to Fr. Hilarion, and others, and had a nice talk with Br. Thomas and Philip Graham, son of the deacon in Ipswich, who is troubled by the “super-correct" tendency in the parish. The young people here have a very normal view of these things – a good sign.
After serving a Litia at the tombs of Metropolitan Anastassy and Archbishop Tikhon (I thought it was the sepulchre of Archbishop Averky, which I actually didn't see), I left with my godfather Dimitry for the next leg of my journey.
My stay at Jordanville was very rewarding, although I feel I would wither away in this atmosphere. Many here suffer from the “don't do anything extraordinary” atmosphere – a certain deadness and boredom is present; and there is not enough inspiration or even appreciation of what is given here – even the Lives of Saints are read at trapeza in such a matter of fact way that they are scarcely heard, and Vladika Laurus deliberately refuses giving comments or interpretations. People here are “carrying on,” and many survive this treatment and become fruitful; but I doubt I could survive it. Our mission in Platina is a different one.
Late in the morning Dimitry and I finally set out, going through the more scenic parts of New York State to New Diveyevo. We stayed only an hour here, and I brieﬂy visited Mothers Seraﬁma, Gavrila, Maria, and Sr. Daria, and then the tomb of Vladika Andrew [Fr. Adrian]. . ..
We arrived at Dimirry’s home in Liberty Corner, a pleasant small town with a semi-rural atmosphere, just in time for supper. I met his family for the first time, including my godson Nicholas, who is retarded and is interested in nothing but the Church and becoming a monk. It is a good, pious family, with two normal Russian girls, their mother and grandmother.
After supper we went to the home of a fellow-parishioner not far away, where I served a short Moleben and gave a talk to the six children of the parish school on the idea of “podvig" or struggle, with examples taken from the Lives of St. Thomas the Apostle, the early martyrs, bishops, desert-dwellers, as well as contemporary missionaries in Uganda and suffering people in Russia. Then I told about our monastery, with special emphasis on the animals, which delighted the children as well as the adults...
December 14'/27, Thursday
This day I rested and wrote letters and postcards, not taking advantage of the offer of one man who was present the night before – to show me New York and the Synod [headquarters]. In the evening about twelve Russians came, now parishioners of the New Brunswick parish.... I gave a talk to these people (in English) about podvig, about suffering Russia and its religious revival, about Fr. Dimitry Dudko, about Africa and its missions...
December 15/28, Friday
Another day of rest for me, and then, after noon, Dimitry and I set out for Pennsylvania to visit Fr. Demetrios Serfes, who had called me at Jordanville and wanted very much to see me. We spent the afternoon driving through the pleasantly rolling Pennsylvania countryside (also Amish country), stopping in Harrisburg (on the impressive Susquehanna River) to pick up my railroad ticket from New York to Cleveland, arriving at dusk at Ft. Demetrios’ apartment in the small town of Mt. Holly Springs...
After supper with Fr. Demetrios (whom Dimitry had met before), we went at 7:00 p.m. to his church, a nicely converted Protestant church with good iconostasis and icons, for a Paraclesis – the Canon to the Mother of God, which we read alternately. Fr. Demetrios does not sing too well, so I sang the stichera to the Russian melodies, and the people sang responses in Greek style.
After the Moleben I gave a talk right in church for the fifteen or so people who came (including children). The title was: Orthodoxy of the Heart. I spoke, usual, about struggle, about appreciating the treasure and the freedom we have, about suffering Russia and our opportunity to help the Orthodox Christians there (I handed out some names), about the dangers of our “spirituality with comfort," about making our Orthodoxy something of the heart, not just the mind. There was a good response – people asked serious questions about how to preserve their Orthodox faith for themselves and their children. I talked also about the pitfalls of “correctness” and not applying Orthodoxy to our own level.
After leaving church, we returned to Fr. Demetrios’ apartment (which is just a mile or two from church) and finished our supper and discussion... Dimitry was tired and went to bed, and Fr. Demetrios and I continued talking until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. He is much less simple than I had imagined and is quite aware of differences in the Church. He felt me out on a few points – I explained, for example, about Archbishop Theophan of Poltava...
December 16/29, Saturday
After a few hours’ sleep, we had breakfast at the “Holly Inn," which is owned by Greek parishioners of Fr. Demetrios. Only towards noon did we finally depart, with good impressions of this little Orthodox outpost, for the trip to [Fr. Valery Lukianov’s church in] Lakewood [New Jersey]. We were delayed by traffic around Philadelphia, and finally arrived in Lakewood only around 4:00 in the afternoon. If I had come in the morning I could have spoken to the children in the school, but it didn’t work out that way.
The All-night Vigil began at 5:00 p.m., and I served and then helped Fr. Valery with confessions. This was the Sunday when everyone was supposed to receive Communion, so there were over a hundred coming to confession. A few had real problems, and I tried to help them as best I could. After service we had supper, and then to bed. Fr. Valery's welcome was most warm, and it was good to meet his matushka [wife] and children also.
December 17/30, Sunday
In the morning I helped again with confessions, then concelebrated with Fr. Valery... I gave the sermon on the Gospel – many are called but few are chosen.
After Liturgy there was a meal in the immense church hall next door (where the church school also is located), and then I gave my talk.
I spoke first in Russian, telling of the history and the present state ofour monastery, then spoke in English to the young people on treasuring and going more deeply into their faith. I gave examples of Orthodox young people who have gone astray, of other Orthodox young who sought for truth outside the faith and then returned, and then of Protestants who have been converted to Orthodoxy.
Then I finished with some words for the Russian-speaking adults...
After the talk a few people came up to talk to me. One of them has a son who has gone through Buddhism, drugs, etc., then wanted to return to Orthodoxy but was put off by Fr. Mardarios who told him he had to repent at least a year and a half before returning to Communion; and now he is studying at Oral Roberts University to become a missionary for the down and out such as he had been. I told the man to tell his son to visit us.
After a warm farewell from Fr. Valery, and accompanied by the ringing of the church bells by Fr. Valery’s children (Which was very touching). Dimitry and I left...
We arrived at Grand Central Station with ﬁfteen minutes to spare; I spent five minutes in this city [i.e., New York City] and had no particular desire to see more. I bade farewell to Dimitry and set off on the return journey.
December 18/31, Monday
I arrived at 8:00 a.m. in Cleveland and barely got off in time with all my baggage. Fr. Theodore was there to meet me, and I spent the day with him at home. He is in a way an image of our Orthodoxy in America for me – a shy young man doing his duty as best he can, not expecting much, no great “missionary” but quietly standing for the faith. May God grant him strength and spiritual fruit. His catechumen David spent most of the day with us, and I was able to say a little to him. At 6:00 p.m. we had the Vigil in English, and one family came besides David.
December 19/January 1, Tuesday
At 4:00 a.m. I celebrated the Divine Liturgy with Fr. Theodore as choir... It was a moving “Catacomb” service which refreshed us both. In such small, unexpected ways as this perhaps we can keep alive our faith.
After a cup of coffee Fr. Theodore saw me off, and my pilgrimage was really at an end.
I caught my train on time in Chicago, after a wait of several hours in the Chicago depot. I ate in the diner with someone from Daytonville, but had no “missionary encounters.”
December 20/January 2, Wednesday
St. John of Kronstadt. A quiet day on the train writing this journal and starting an article on the Shroud of Turin. Dinner in the dining car, but only polite interest shown in Orthodoxy by my table companions – a woman from Watsonville with her son and daughter.
December 21/January 3, Thursday
The last day of my journey. The most impressive scenery of the whole way is the California Sierras. The eastern side is filled with deep snow, but the western slope is warm (67°) and bare. Perhaps the winter will not be so bad in Platina after all.
After passing through the Sierras, I did have a “missionary encounter.” A young, long-haired (but beardless) man named Rick sat next to me and said he wanted to “check me out" spiritually. He is from a Fundamentalist family in Chicago and has been living in Denver, going to meetings of a cult called “Urantia” – meditation, the search for truth, etc. He is going to San Francisco to go deeper into this cult and look for whatever else he can find spiritually. I warned him about going astray spiritually, told him a little about us and Archbishop john and told him to go to Vladika John’s Sepulchre and to ask his help to find the right way. He said: “Why should I ask someone else when I can talk to God?" I replied: “Because he’s closer to God than you are and can help you.” I invited him to visit us and gave him the last two Orthodox Words had: on Andreyev, and the 1978 Pilgrimage. He thanked me and left. A self-centered and independent young man; may the little seed I sowed sprout later and come to his rescue!
Conclusions from the trip: It was fruitful in contacts; there are quiet strugglers in many places, and it is good that we help each other.
No one has such opportunities as we do for printing what is needed for today's Orthodox strugglers. We must do more. A few may join us; we should be better organized and prepared for them. Our sisters also must be better directed to a path of fruitfulness.
We must and are in a position to be leaders in setting the tone for our Orthodox strugglers today – a tone not of “correctness” but of heartfelt Orthodoxy. May God grant us the strength and wisdom!
• Archimandrite Nektarios (Fr. Demetrios Serfes), in 2005 wrote down his recollections of his visit with Fr. Seraphim which he posted on his website.
• "Orthodoxy in USA" talk published in Orthodox Word issue #94
• Dimitri Langeron, (signature below Fr. Seraphim's), briefly mentioned the visit in a life he wrote probably not too long before the publication of Not of This World in 1993.
• Dimitri Langeron, (signature below Fr. Seraphim's), briefly mentioned the visit in a life he wrote probably not too long before the publication of Not of This World in 1993.
• photo shared by GOC parishioner in Pennsylvania • original size 17.78x12.78 here: