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.
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).
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...
• 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.