Archive for August, 2015
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
In accordance with human nature, all human organizations on earth have hierarchies. However, in the Church, which is both human and divine, there are two hierarchies. The first is an outer hierarchy, corresponding to the human aspect of the Church, the second is an inner hierarchy, corresponding to its divine aspect. This second hierarchy is in fact a hierarchy of grace, corresponding to our closeness to, or distance from, the Kingdom of God. Its upper part is composed of those who have become holy, the communion of the saints. Its lower part is composed of the righteous still on earth, of whom some of the most visible are the Elders and Eldresses of the Church, with their gifts of prayer, discernment, wonder-working, healing, and inner sight into the past and the future, the latter known as prophecy. One contemporary such Elder is the recently reposed Schema-Archimandrite Zosima of the Ukraine (+ 2002), whose favourite saying was: ‘Love is greater than all else’. Let us learn something of his life.
John – the Grace of the Lord
Schema-Archimandrite Zosima was born Ivan Alekseevich Sokur on 3 September 1944. He never saw his father, a Don Cossack, who was killed at the front. His mother, Maria, came from Vinnitsa in the Ukraine, but the future Elder was born in a Siberian prison hospital in the region of Sverdlov. A devout woman, his mother had been imprisoned for practising her Faith. Her child was baptised Ioann (John), on the advice of the future saint, the holy Elder Kuksha. The Elder was at that time in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, and he predicted that the infant would grow in ‘the grace of the Lord’, which is the meaning of the name ‘John’. At his baptism the baby took firm hold of the cross and the beard of the priest. This was deeply symbolic for his future life, for it was by the cross and as a priest that he would live.
The child grew up in a small mining town in the Donbass in the Ukraine. In this industrial desert was to be found a group of exiled nuns and spiritual children of St John of Kronstadt, among them Sister Antonina, his mother’s sister, who helped bring him up. The nuns often secretly gathered in the Sokurs’ house. John’s aunt prophesied that he would live to see the canonization and worldwide veneration of St John of Kronstadt, which of course came about when the Church Outside Russia canonized him. From the life of St John related to him by his disciples, the child John learnt of the courage that Orthodox must have to survive in this world. He often said that we must not be, ‘slaves to fear’. Later he also said: ‘Read the lives of the martyrs and confessors of the twentieth century – there you will find the true sacred history of the twentieth century’. The Elder also predicted that the relics of St John, his favourite saint, would, one day, at a most difficult time in Russian history, be uncovered as a blessing to the whole world and that there would be many miracles and healings.
Thus John was brought up in the church and, by the age of seven, he could read Church Slavonic fluently. In those post-war years the family lived in great poverty and John often came close to death from starvation, from illness, or from being crushed by trains, for he would often go to the railway-line, searching for lumps of coal to cook with. Despite their poverty, the family kept the Church fasts strictly. The nuns, who had all suffered imprisonment for the Faith, one for 25 years, taught John to recite the psalms and the Jesus Prayer as he worked. John’s mother also later became a nun, under the name Mariamna.
School and Persecution
From the age of seven onwards, John had to go to school. Here he never took part in anything relating to the atheist Communist Party. Later he would say that he only had one Party: Mother Church. The teachers and the other children mocked him and called him ‘father’ or ‘priest’ – words of insult in Soviet times. Despite the bullying and the beatings, John always triumphed through his love and meekness. Even when the head-teacher tried to persuade the young child, in a six-hour interview, of the correctness of Communism, John remained firm. The authorities even threatened to close the local church if John went there. In fact, the more they persecuted him, the stronger his faith became. The child was saved because he was an excellent pupil. Later the Elder was to show interest in all sorts of things and spoke of the importance of knowledge.
Indeed, he considered that knowledge was vital. His favourite reading was the twelve volumes of St Dimitri’s Lives of the Saints and the Diary of St John of Kronstadt. Later he would recommend this Diary to Orthodox, in it the Elder said you could find the answers to all your questions. When the militia raided the house and took away all the icons and books, miraculously they left this Diary. In this John saw a sign. Another influence was when Fr Dimitri Peskov, a man of prayer with the gift of discernment, came to serve in the local church after many years of imprisonment. John served there and learned much. Another influence was the pilgrimages the family made. One was to Pochaev, where they now met the holy Elder Kuksha, who prophesied the future life of John, as a priest, a monk, and a schemamonk – a man of prayer for the whole world.
The Way of the Cross
When Khrushchov came to power in the Soviet Union in 1959, new trials started as persecution increased. John, whom everyone including himself, knew was destined for the priesthood, was to suffer. In 1961 he finished school, an outstanding pupil, but the Communists would not let him study at seminary. With the blessing of the local priest, who wished to test him, John went to study veterinary science. It seemed suitable, since he suffered with all living things. After one year of these studies, his spiritual father blessed him to enter the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. Here his spiritual father became the clairvoyant Elder, Schema-Abbot Valentine. It was he who warned the young John of the temptations that he would face in the future. In particular, he said: ‘They will ask you to be a bishop thirteen times and once to be bishop in Japan. Refuse, this is not your path’. All of this came to pass. Being obedient to his spiritual father, Fr Zosima always refused the offer of the episcopate.
John stayed at the Monastery in Kiev until it was closed by the atheists. At that time the future Soviet Metropolitan of Kiev, the infamous Philaret, who was to be defrocked when freedom came to the Church in the 1990s, came with KGB agents to close the Monastery. Elder Zosima later recalled how Abbot Valentine, ever clairvoyant, said to him: ‘For your impiety you will forsake God and be an enemy of the Church, the time will come, you will be a traitor to the Church. And remember: for your impiety, that you closed the monastery, God will not give you a normal death, you will die like Judas the Traitor’. This prophecy remains to this day, for Philaret is still alive. At the closure of the Monastery, the monks buried the icons to save them and, though weeping, had faith that the monastery would one day reopen, as indeed it did.
After this John became a novice at a dependency of the Pochaev monastery in the Ukraine. When this in its turn was closed, John received a recommendation from a priest to go to seminary – for this recommendation the priest was retired. John easily passed all the exams to enter the Trinity-St Sergius seminary, but the KGB would not allow him in. He was also refused entry at the St Petersburg seminary. He was taken in by the ascetically-minded Bishop Paul of Novosibirsk, with whom he lived for one year as a novice. From Bishop Paul the novice John learned much about the services of the Church and also decided that he would never marry. This was a fruitful time.
After one year the novice was finally accepted for studies in St Petersburg (then still called Leningrad) with the help of the controversial Metropolitan Nikodim. The Elder, who was completely Orthodox in his rejection of the heresies of ecumenism and modernism, was later to defend the reputation of Metropolitan Nikodim, whose cell-attendant he became for a time. According to the Elder, the Metropolitan was a pious man and did what he did only in order to defend the Church from Communist persecution. At seminary the young John spent much time in the library and was given the nickname of ‘bookman’. Knowledge and self-education were extremely important in his life. In particular, he loved Church history and used to say: ‘History means spiritual roots. Can there be a tree without roots? So without history there can be no spirituality’.
In 1975 John finished seminary brilliantly, having specialized in the history of the Monastery of Valaam. On 3 June of that year he was tonsured a monk, taking the name of Savvaty (Sabbatius), after one of the two founders of the Monastery of Valaam. As he was tonsured, the Metropolitan predicted that he would die under the name of Zosima, after the other founder of Valaam. Six days later he was ordained hieromonk and, exceptionally, at once awarded a gold cross. It seemed as though Fr Sabbatius would be destined to teach, but the young priest wanted to serve others in churches. For he had no intellectual pretentiousness and often repeated the well-known words of St Ambrose of Optina: ‘Where it is simple, there are a hundred angels, where it is complicated there is not a single one’. The young priest did not want to teach, but to put his knowledge into the services of the Church. For example, having come to know Russian Church history, whenever he read the intercession at vigil services, he would spend half an hour going through the full list of the saints of Holy Russia in chronological order. He knew every saint, for he was in their succession.
The Cross of the Good Shepherd
As a new priest Fr Sabbatius was sent to Odessa in the Ukraine, to the Monastery of the Dormition. Providentially, he was given the cell of the future St Kuksha, who had reposed at this very monastery. The young priest already venerated the Elder Kuksha as a saint, for he had twice played an important role in his life. Working in the monastery garden, the priest learnt to flee all temptations through patience and humility. However, his time here was to be very short. At the end of 1975, Father was transferred to another diocese and became a simple village priest, as had also been prophesied of him. Here he was to serve for ten years, raising up the parish, renewing it completely, continually suffering the persecution of the Red Baal. His work of restoration and rebuilding was a miracle, for elsewhere in the Soviet Empire at that time churches were being closed.
Fr Sabbatius’ services were daily and monastic. They began at five or six o’ clock in the morning and lasted until midday or one o’ clock. The evening service began at four or five o’ clock and finished at ten. Inbetween, there were other services – baptisms, weddings, funerals, blessings, for which he never took any money. People, who came all over, for this was the only church in the region, cried at his moving services and Fr Sabbatius sooned gained a reputation for his sincerity and knowing the secrets of hearts. Once, for instance, a man came asking about his son in Afghanistan. Fr Sabbatius replied: ‘It is a Golgotha for them there. You son is alive…Go home you will have news’. The prediction was correct in all details. There were a great many such cases and also cases of the healing of demoniacs. A single word from him was enough to send a demon scuttling out of the sick and out of the church. Tall, thin, very poorly dressed, he expelled many demons in this way. Here he spent nothing on himself, but would always spend his last penny on beautifying the church.
Given the title of Abbot in 1980, he was to suffer much from the Communists at this time. He was arrested, interrogated, beaten, and forced to stand barefoot on concrete floors, which was how he started to have sores on his feet, developing erysipelas. One KGB colonel persecuted him in particular. The priest predicted: ‘You are unfortunate, for through your godlessness you will go mad and in your old age you will eat your own excrement’. Enraged, the colonel tried to beat him, but he was restrained by St Nicholas, to whom Fr Sabbatius prayed. Some fifteen years later, in conditions of freedom, the colonel’s wife was to come to the Elder with her demented husband, and ask for his prayers, for the Elder’s terrible prophecy had turned out to be exactly true…
The KGB arrested Fr Sabbatius, beat him, tortured him. One terrible torture was ‘the music box’. This was to shut up a prisoner in a small, dark, windowless chamber and play depressing music into it. Of this the Elder said; ‘There I learned the Jesus Prayer, without it I would have gone mad’. Although the KGB failed in their tortures, they left the Elder with full-blown erysipelas, lung problems and a hump back – medals for his victory. Once when talk turned to criticism of the Patriarchal Church by certain ill-informed members of the Church Outside Russia, the Elder said, touching his hump: ‘We are accused of co-operating with the KGB, well, here is the sign of my co-operation with them’. Clearly, the Elder was referring to politically-minded or simply ignorant members of the Church Outside Russia, who without discernment, lumped all members of the Patriarchal Church, people like Elder Zosima and Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev and modernists and ecumenists, together. These were the very people whom Metropolitan Philaret of the Church Outside Russia, who canonized the New Martyrs and Confessors who finally freed Russia, rebuked in 1981, in the resolution concerning the holy Elder Tavrion of Riga.
Seeing their failure, the KGB next tried a familiar tactic, tried so often in other parts of the Russian Church and at other points in its history. This was to send Fr Sabbatius off to different parishes in out of the way places, in fact exiling him. Thus, in 1985 and 1986 he served in three different parishes. But those faithful to him always sought him out and found him, as is the way of things.
A few days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, on 22 November 1989, Fr Sabbatius was appointed rector of St Basil’s church in Nikolskoye. It was the most out of the way place of all. The church was half-ruined, without an iconostasis, and the priest’s house was a tumbledown shed infested by rats and mice. Yet here, after the Revolution, nuns had lived in exile, and before the Revolution the Mother of God had appeared on the feast-day of the Kursk Root Icon. A spring of miraculous water had appeared on the site of the appearance, which again and again had broken through the cement that the atheists sealed it with. At one time, a holy Elder called Michael had lived here and he had prophesied that when a monk came to serve at the church, two monasteries would be founded here and that they would stand until the Second Coming.
In the winter it was so cold in the unheated church here that Fr Sabbatius’ hands would freeze to the chalice. His erysipelas became worse. Yet by the autumn of 1990 the church had been restored. A hundred people came to help. They helped the Elder rebuild, and as they worked they prayed. ‘Say the Jesus prayer, otherwise there will be no grace’, said the Elder to them. Everything was built on grace. However, once Fr Sabbatius had restored life here, the Patriarch in Moscow decided to make him a bishop and send him to Japan. As usual, Fr Sabbatius refused, but he was not heeded. Than, at the last moment, nothing came of this Japanese plan, for Fr Sabbatius caught pneumonia. Another monk went to Japan in his place. In 1990 Fr Sabbatius was made Archimandrite, and in 1992 he took the great schema and the name Zosima.
At that time, with fall of the idols of communism, Holy Russia was in as much need of the Elder as idolatrous Japan. People came from everywhere to consult the Elder, his reputation now established. There were many healings and miracles. Those afflicted in body and spirit were healed. There were also many cases of the Elder’s clairvoyance, as he had the ability to read the thoughts of those who came to him. But the Elder was not carried away by miracles and he remained sober, warning: ‘Mysticism is harmful to the soul. Our main miracle is the liturgy, repentance and prayer’.
He talked to everyone, the peasant and the professor, the old and the young, finding the right words for them all, treating them all as equals. He would say: ‘Avoid extremes – extremes are not from God. Take the middle path. Do not despair – there is no sin that is not healed by repentance. God is merciful’. Everybody who approached him felt his love and mercy. Often he helped people with material things, money and food. In every parish he served in, he always set up a place to eat, a refectory. Later he set up a ‘House of Mercy’, alms-houses, where some sixty elderly and ill people, abandoned by the State, were taken care of. ‘The Lord walks here’, he would say, predicting that his House of Mercy would last until the end of the world.
Until 1998, the Elder had never thought of starting a monastery or a convent. He would send candidates to be novices in other monasteries and convents, he would direct benefactors to build churches elsewhere. Thus, with his blessing and help, altogether some ten churches were built in the Donbass. However, in 1998, the Elder went into hospital with kidney failure. A remarkable event took place. Here, he underwent a clinical death, his soul leaving his body but then returning. On waking after this event, he was to recall how he had seen the heavenly habitations and heard the most exquisite angelic singing. He was called back to life – ‘the whole earth is weeping for you’, he was told afterwards.
We do not know what happened exactly, but after coming back from death, but in a wheelchair, the Elder set about building the Dormition Convent in Nikolskoye, with churches dedicated to St Basil and to All the Saints of the Russian Land. From his wheelchair the Elder surveyed the building operations. And when he was not in hospital, he served the liturgy and received pilgrims. Within two or three years all was built, not only walls, but above all nuns and also monks. His main labour was not building, but praying. Here, for instance, he gathered together parts of the relics of over 200 saints from all over the Orthodox world.
The Cross and the Resurrection
However, the sufferings of the Elder were enormous. His doctors said that he suffered for ten people. And yet, with all this, he served and helped others. Following the tortures of the KGB, his feet now bled with sores, and yet he still stood and served. From 1995 the sores in his feet reached the bones and he had an almost permanent temperature of 39 to 41 degrees. Yet he spent his nights in prayer, hardly sleeping. ‘Let us thank the Lord for every good thing and every bad thing in our life’ he said. At this time his benefactors enabled him to go on pilgrimages to the holy places in Russia, and also to Greece, Mt Athos and the Holy Land.
These journeys were a great consolation to Father. From the year 2000 on, his health worsened. 2001 was spent in hospital, except for brief intervals, for example at Easter 2001, when apparently dying fifteen minutes previously, yet he managed to serve the liturgy at midnight. The doctors who treated him were illumined by the light of his faith, one was converted from total atheism. Dying and in intolerable pain, he yet gave them hope and encouragement. At the end he lived only through the Holy Spirit, and the Lord was to reveal to him the day and time of his end.
On 14 August 2002 Father became very ill. Calling out in pain to the Mother of God, he announced that he still had two weeks to live. On his feast-day, 23 August, he announced to his bishop that he would die at Dormition, 28 August. But then he added that this would spoil the feast and that he was unworthy to be buried with the Mother of God. For he loved the Mother of God and the Dormition was his favourite feast. On 28 August the Elder was taken to hospital in great pain. He remained in prayer the whole time. And the Elder reposed, as he had prophesied, at a quarter to midnight on 29 August. At church they were celebrating the service of the burial of the Mother of God.
When the faithful were told the news at the end of the service, their grief was enormous. Wailing and tears broke out. It seemed as though all Russia was weeping as an orphan. The next day the body of the Elder was brought to the church. It was the morning of 30 August. The monks read the Psalter and did services constantly. At the funeral, on 31 August, there was no room for the people in the church. There was space only for the clergy and monastics. The people stood in a crowd of some ten thousand outside. The monastic choir, going in procession around the convent with the coffin, began to sing Easter hymns. Those who kissed the Elder’s hand noticed that it was still soft and very warm. The atmosphere was that of Easter – of the Resurrection
The main lesson of the Elder was that the greatest joy is the joy of living with God, which nothing can ever take away. He taught this in his life, he taught this also in his death. Those who saw the Elder’s face in death, saw joy and an unearthly rejoicing on it. After his holy repose, many saw the Elder in dreams, announcing: ‘I am still alive’ and ‘Zosima is risen’. In particular he left in his will instructions regarding the Church. He prophesied difficult times for the Ukraine, instructing all to follow and be faithful to the Russian Orthodox Church.
At the end of 2004 those times are now upon us and will continue. But we are to follow the Elder’s instructions. As the Elder said, Holy Russia is not some narrow national country, not only Russia, but also the Ukraine and Belarus. And for those of us who live outside this threefold territory, but belong to Her Church, whatever our nationality and language, we also belong to the same idea and spiritual reality of Holy Russia. Spiritually, we all belong to Holy Russia. Therefore the holy Elder is calling us to follow the same instructions.
Although we have been persecuted by modernists, although we have been slandered by masons, although we have been sent out by those lacking discernment, although we have been hated by those we love, we are all to keep faith with the Russian Orthodox Church, in the difficult times that are now upon us.
Father Zosima, Pray to God for us!
A Christian evolutionist is a person with the brain of an amoeba.
You would say: “That’s not possible!”.
Exactly! (Here Vincent Rossi is kind enough to explain the same thing with several thousands words more)
On Wednesday, the fourth day of the annual Nativity readings began the conference section dedicated to the «Orthodox understanding of creation of the world». One of the speakers was an Orthodox hieromonk, Fr. Damascene (Christensen), an American from the Monastery of St. Herman of Alaska in Platina, California, which belongs to the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America. This monastery is well known in Russia as the home of Fr. Seraphim Rose, its founder, and Fr. Damascene is a member of the Brotherhood from the time of Fr. Seraphim’s repose. He is the author Fr. Seraphim’s biography (due to appear in a new Russian version this year under the title Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works), and is something of expert on Fr. Seraphim’s Life and writings in general.– Tell us how you developed your interest in the subject of creationism?
– I developed my interest in this subject through my work on Fr. Seraphim’s book, Genesis, Creation, and Early Man. I spent about a year and a half editing this book, researching the subject, adding introductory material and a lengthy epilogue, and footnotes to it. It needed a lot of work because Fr. Seraphim had left this work unfinished. The work was taken from notes, articles and taped lectures that Fr. Seraphim had given. He was unable to finish it before his repose, and I was to finish the work that he had begun.
In working on this project, I became deeply inspired by the presentation of creation that we find in the writings of the holy fathers—which of course are based on the holy scriptures—and their vision of creation, the six days, the first created world, and the fall of man. I came to see in working on this book how important this was, not just as one segment of theology related to the beginning of things, but as something relevant to the whole sum of our Orthodox theology. It is integral to our understanding of man, to our understanding of our redemption by Jesus Christ; and it is directly linked to our eschatology, because our understanding of the future age is based in our understanding of the first created world.
According to the consensus of the Orthodox holy fathers, the entire first created world–not only paradise–was incorrupt, without death. It was a totally different reality than what we know today. There was no pain, nor suffering, nor disease, nor sickness; all these things came into being through the fall.
When Christ died on the cross, He took upon Himself the sentence of sin, while being Himself totally sinless. By taking upon Himself the sentence of sin, which is death, He redeemed men from death. Thus, the idea of evolution over billions of years undermines not only the Patristic teaching of the creation and the first created world, but also the Orthodox understanding of redemption. It makes no sense to say that Christ died on the Cross to take away the sentence of sin, which is death, if you believe that the world is billions of years old. If the world is billions of years old and if the evolution of man from the swamp really occurred, there had to be millions of years of suffering, sickness death before man even came on the scene.
Thus I came to understand that, in order to uphold our Orthodox understanding of history and theology, we have to have an answer to those who say that the world is billions of years old and that we have evolved from the swamp. If we do not have an answer, then we allow our theology to be undermined. We can say, “Well, why don’t we just believe in Orthodox theology but forget about the history, because what does history matter? The Bible doesn’t have to be literally true, we can believe that the world is billions of years old, and man descended from an ape, and at the same time believe in the theology of the Church.” This combination, however, is impossible, because our theology is rooted in history. Our understanding of man (Orthodox anthropology), of our salvation (soteriology), and of our ultimate end and purpose (eschatology), are all rooted in history: in real events that have happened or will happen.
According to Orthodox Patristic teaching, man was created incorrupt, endowed with the inward grace of God. He fell, lost this inward abiding of grace, and became subject to physical corruption and death. Christ the new Adam, the incarnate God, through His incarnation, death and resurrection, redeemed man from spiritual death, making it possible for man to have the inward dwelling of grace, and to one day to be resurrected in a new spiritual body. The future age will be like the first created world, but even greater than it, even more spiritual. It will be the world to which the first Adam was supposed to attain, but failed. The second Adam, Christ, has made this possible for man, and will bring into being this future age, restoring what was lost through the fall, bringing to fulfillment everything that man was supposed to become. So, all of these things—the first created world, the fall, the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection, the second coming of Christ, the general resurrection and beyond it—are rooted in time and history. We cannot divorce our theology from real events. We must believe as the holy fathers did, that these are not merely allegorical events that we read about in the book of Genesis. Sometimes the holy fathers give an allegorical interpretation to something in Genesis, like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but they never deny its literal reality. If you read the holy fathers as Fr. Seraphim did, seeking to understand what they are saying, you will see that the holy fathers say that the things that we read about in Genesis are true just as they are written. We must understand them as such in order for our theology to be sound, and to protect ourselves against error and heresy.
So, through working on Fr. Seraphim’s book, I came to see the tremendous importance of this subject – of Genesis, creation, and early man. I came to see how it touches upon all aspects of Orthodox theology, and I also became more aware of how on this theology was being undermined in modern times, how Orthodox Christians were compromising their faith due to the power of modern secular ideas. I saw that this is a subject that really should be talked about and discussed, and that the teachings of the holy fathers should be presented and defended.
– How did you meet Fr. Seraphim, and how long did you know him?
– I met Fr. Seraphim in 1981, May 14 to be exact, when he came to my college campus, at the University of California in Santa Cruz. He gave two lectures. The first lecture was called “Contemporary signs of the end of the world,” and the second lecture was called “God’s revelation to the human heart.” At that time I was looking into Orthodoxy. I had discovered it in a college class on world religions, and had begun attending services, but I had not made a definite decision to become Orthodox. Meeting Fr. Seraphim was a catalyst for me to become Orthodox. My first impressions of him were very strong. I felt from the first meeting that he was the wisest person I had ever met in my life, in the sense of having true spiritual wisdom. I also felt, just from his presence, that he was dead to himself, and dead to the world. I was tremendously impressed with him. He invited me to the monastery that coming summer, and I went in August, attended the classes given by Fr. Seraphim during that time, during the St. Herman Summer Pilgrimage. I was at that time made a catechumen.
Then, during the following year, I visited the monastery several times and would have talks with Fr. Seraphim. He became my spiritual father, prepared me for baptism, and he was going to be my Godfather. I went to the monastery the following summer to be baptized by Fr. Seraphim. Soon after I arrived he got sick, and after a brief but painful illness, about twelve days after I arrived he reposed in the Lord. I was there during the whole time of his suffering in the hospital, up until the time of his repose, and I was baptized while he was dying in the hospital. So I did know him for a year and a half, and I had many fruitful talks with him. He was the one who prepared me to enter the Church. After he died I felt called upon to continue his work and to make his spiritual inheritance known to the world. Very soon after his repose I began writing articles about him, and then a year after he died I began writing his biography.
– What especially do you remember about him?
I have already mentioned the wisdom that I perceived in him during his life. After studying his life and writings extensively after his death, I would say the same thing about him, but with a more full understanding of it.
He was a brilliant person, extremely intelligent. But intelligence can sometimes hinder rather than help a person come to wisdom. An intelligent person can take so many complex routes around the truth but he never arrives at it. He can convince himself of something that is totally untrue by his mental acrobatics. Fr. Seraphim was quite the contrary. He was extremely intelligent, but he was also very simple. His mental vision was clear and pure. He had a unique gift of being able to go right to the heart of a question, and get to the essence of what he was contemplating, to cut through all kinds of deceptions and mental detours from the truth. He could see the fallacies of false arguments, and cut through peoples’ attempts to get around the truth.
But it is not only Fr. Seraphim’s simplicity and clear-sightedness that makes him such a valuable Orthodox teacher for our times. Together with these qualities he was, as I felt at my first meetings with him, dead to the world. As he himself said not long after becoming Orthodox, “When I became a Christian, I voluntarily crucified my mind.” In other words, he died to himself, he cut off all his own opinions, and humbled his mind before the mind of Christ, because he came to know Christ as the Truth. As he wrote, he came to know that “the Truth is not an idea, sought and known by the mind, but is a Person, known and loved by the heart”—that is, the Divine-human Person, Jesus Christ. He knew that Truth as embodied in the Church, because the Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the mind of the Church. And the mind of the Church, which is the mind of Christ, is expressed in the writings of the holy fathers, which of course are based on the Holy Scriptures.
So, Fr. Seraphim humbled his mind in order to acquire the mind of the Church. He prayed to the holy fathers to help him enter into their mind. He sought not only to learn what the holy fathers said about various subjects, but also to see reality as they saw it. I believe he did this because he had true humility. He did not have any modern prejudices; he set all those aside, and died to himself. Therefore, in reading Fr. Seraphim’s writings, you are reading the pure teachings of the holy fathers, written by someone who has acquired their mind.
– Tell us about the theme of your lecture.
The theme of my lecture was creationism in America—an Orthodox analysis. Because I came from America I thought that people would be interested in what is happening in America in the creation versus evolution debate. I spoke about the various creationist groups in America, and about the Intelligent Design movement and its role in bringing the evolution debate out of the religious sector and into the public sector. I gave a general overview of what’s happening in America, because this is a very hot topic there right now. It is very much in the news, and the battle lines are being drawn. There is a war going on, because the evolutionary establishment is losing ground. The public is becoming more aware of the flaws in the theory of evolution. Once these become known, people who are really seeking the truth will lose faith in evolution. For, while evolution is true to a very limited degree—in that there can be adaptive variations in different kinds of organisms—the idea that man evolved from a microscopic organism is not observable by science. The latter kind of evolution is a faith, and has no scientific basis. From findings in molecular biology and genetics, it is becoming more and more clear that such evolution is impossible.
Finally, in my talk I discussed the similarities and differences between Protestant creationism and the Orthodox understanding of creation and the first-created world. There are many similarities, but there are also many differences. I went into the differences in order to give Orthodox creationists a better idea as to how to approach the work of Protestant creationists in America: how we can learn from their writings, and in what aspects we diverge from their way of thinking. The text of my lecture will be printed in volume three of the publication printed by the миссионерско-Проветительский Центр «Шестодневъ», Православное Осмысление Творения Мiра.
– Tell us about the conditions and atmosphere of public education in America, with respect to evolution.
– Over 50% of Americans believe the Biblical account of creation. They believe that God created man in his present form less than 10,000 years ago. A smaller number believe that evolution happened through God, while only 10% believe in a totally naturalistic evolution. That 10% controls the policy of public schools in America. So evolution has a vice grip on public education. Not only is creationism not allowed; a recent supreme court ruling prohibited even a mention in a brief paragraph that there is some kind of intelligent cause for living things, stated in a vague and general way. The only thing that can be taught in public schools is that everything happened through chance and natural processes. God is totally excluded from the discussion of the origin of life in the schools. However, since over 50% of the public believes in special creation and in a young earth, much of the public is not happy with the situation. Therefore, they have been trying to find ways to have a more complete discussion of the subject. They wish for the problems of evolution to be discussed, and that at least some idea of an intelligent designer of creation be presented.
In the last few years, there have been some positive developments in the United States. Five states have recently adopted resolutions to allow the scientific criticisms of evolution to be taught in public schools. This is a big step forward because, once the problems of evolution are discussed, any person with a rational mind can see that evolution cannot have occurred in the way it is described. In other words: Yes, living things can change and adapt to other environments, but microorganisms cannot evolve into man.
As can be expected, the evolutionists are furious at this development. They are doing everything they can, not only to keep creationism out of public schools, not only to keep out the idea of an intelligent designer, but also to keep out any questioning of evolution. They consider evolution to be a “dogma” that cannot even be questioned. It has to be taught as dogma and as fact, when in fact it is a faith. So, this is a very volatile issue now. Although America is supposed to be a democracy, in this case, the majority does not rule. A small minority is ruling, but as I said, changes are beginning to be made.
– How do you see the future in this regard? Judging from what you see now, can the evolutionists really be overruled?
– It is hard to say. It has been said by creationists that evolution is the biggest hoax of the 20thcentury. We can only hope that it will not be the biggest hoax of the 21st century.
Evolutionists have dug in their heels. The American Civil Liberties Union, an anti-Christian organization of lawyers and activists, fights vigorously in court against any challenge to evolution in the public schools. There is also an organization called the National Center for Science Education which is dedicated to fighting against any mention of creation in the schools. It is a very big struggle, and it is hard to say how it will play out.
Even if Darwinistic evolution becomes outdated, there is still the danger, coming from those who do not believe in the Christian God, of a rejection of the purely Darwinian concept of evolution—that everything came from natural causes—and the embracing of a pseudo-spiritual evolution: the kind of spiritual evolution that we find in the Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky and Alice Bailey, the Anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner, the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, the Kaballah, the New Age movement, etc. According to this teaching of spiritual evolution, God is identified with the creation, and the creation is seen as evolving to Divinity. This is a heretical, pagan idea that could replace, in the minds of many, the purely Darwinian concept of evolution. Proponents of the New Age in America, such as Ken Wilber, say that “evolutionary spirituality” is the “cutting edge” of the new religious consciousness. This is the spirituality of Antichrist. In the epilogue to Fr. Seraphim’s book [Genesis, Creation, and Early Man] there is a lengthy discussion of how this evolutionary spirituality is deeply anti-Christian.
– How did you like the Nativity Readings?
– I think that it is wonderful that Patriarch Alexei II has instituted such lectures, in order to educate people in the Faith, and that the doors are open for all to attend. It is a wonderful gift to his flock
– What would you like to say about the sponsor of the section on creation, “Shestodnev?”
– I am very inspired by the work of Shestodnev, which defends the Orthodox teaching on creation. We try to support this work as much as we can in our St. Herman Brotherhood, and in return we have received a lot of support from Shestodnev. Our Brotherhood, which strives to continue the work of Fr. Seraphim, is of one mind with Archpriest Constantine Bufeev and the Six Days Center, who also strive to continue Fr. Seraphim’s work of presenting the Orthodox teaching on Genesis and creation. Shestodnev is a leader in the whole Orthodox Church around the world in the defense of our Orthodox doctrine of creation. All those who contribute the books and articles to this work are making a great contribution to the Church.
By discrediting Biblical history and undermining Christian theology, the teaching of evolution has done more than any single idea in the past 150 years to corrode Christian Faith. Some Orthodox Christians try to save the faith by compromising, sort of joining the enemy. But those who look at the situation honestly can see that the Faith of Christ and the faith of evolutionism cannot be combined. Evolution says that man evolved from primal ooze, while Christianity states that man was created by God in a state much higher than we are now. These are totally different views, which cannot be reconciled. So the Church must come forth with the truth, and not compromise it or twist it. We can believe just as our Christian ancestors believed, just as our Orthodox holy fathers believed.
We therefore pray that God will continue to prosper the work of Shestodnev and of the whole Orthodox Church in defending our Faith.
Wednesday August 19, 2015 / August 6, 2015
12th Week after Pentecost. Tone two.
Fast. Fish Allowed
The Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Second “Feast of the Saviour” in August).
New Hieromartyrs Dimitry (Lyubimov), archbishop of Gdov (1938) and Priest Nicholas Prozorov (1930), priest Andrew (Zimin), priest Sergius (Tikhomirov), Domnik, Lidia and Mary (Zimins).
New Martyr Abbacum of Thessalonica (1628).
St. Theoctistus, bishop of Chernigov (1123).
The Scripture Readings
In this article, where he makes some considerations upon the last exploit of the satanists ruling the United States, father Sergei Sveshnikov slips in several assertions which are perplexing, to say the least, and spoil all the good things contained in it.
I think that the basis of his misunderstandings must be located here:
I propose to begin with putting homosexuality into a scriptural context–not into the context of Leviticus, which, by the way, in addition to prohibiting homosexual relations, also prohibits the consumption of shrimp–the Lenten favorite of many Orthodox Christians (11:10).
With all due respect, I am not a priest and I have no theological degrees to fill the virtual walls of my blog, in fact I am the last and the most miserable of the Lord’s servants, but in all truth I am compelled to say that if theological academies teach the equivalence of those two prohibitions, well, then there is a big problem with theological academies!
In fact, the only theological academy known to Christianity is the monastery.
Apart from the fact that we have no record of shrimps eaters stoned to death under the Law, I am sure that father Sergei is fully aware that our Lord is the fulfilment of the Law and that His fulfilment is interpreted and transmitted by His Holy Church after His Ascension to the Father.
Well, Christ did not waste a single moment of His precious time with the shrimps (apart from pointing out that’s useless to eat clean food in clean vessels if your heart is unclean and vice versa), while reaffirming that male and female He made them, so sanctioning what is the only lawful sexual intercourse for humankind (Mark 10, 6-8).
I am sure that father Sergei is also aware that the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul’s epistles are full of references which totally dismiss every outward distinction between clean and unclean food, forbidding only the food which has been sacrificed to idols and the blood. I hope I will be excused if I do not list them, because they are countless. Therefore, we eat shrimps now because so it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to our Fathers in the Church!
No such dismissal seemed good to them about sodomy! Au contraire, the teaching of the Church has always been an unequivocal condemnation of this sin. Here St. John Chrysostom on homosexuals.
In any case, the scriptural foundation of this unequivocal condemnation are much more wider than what father Sergei article seems to suggest. The image below depicts the most eclatant: the destruction of Sodom by fire and brimstone from Heaven!
Not less perplexing is the paragraph quoted below:
Now imagine that two young women come to a priest and say the exact same thing: “We love each other and want to be together.” Suddenly, the “love” does not matter, commitment does not matter, self-sacrifice does not matter, mutual support does not matter. The only thing that seems to matter is that their relationship is unnatural, and by this we mean their sexual relationship, of course, since neither commitment, nor self-sacrifice, nor mutual support is what we are talking about when we use the word ‘unnatural.’ So, is it about sex then? Because if it is, we need to talk about it, instead of getting piously-squeamish every time the very word is mentioned. If it is not the self-sacrificial love but sex that is the basis of our theology of marriage (since the two young women may very well possess this self-sacrificial love for one another), then it may be time to discuss sex more seriously within the Orthodox context.
Of course it is about sex, father Sergei. If you pretend to expound the sin of homosexuality and sodomy apart from sex, people would be excused if they think that you don’t know what you are talking about. As long as the two young women abstain from sexual intercourse, they are free from this sin. There cannot be a sin of homosexuality or sodomy without sexual intercourse, as much as there cannot be a marriage without a male and a female. Nobody forbids the two young women from living together, provided that they abstain from sex (as anybody else, the only lawful sex is in the marriage), but this does not mean that they can be married. This is not because our theology of marriage is based on sex, but because our theology of marriage is based (as everything else) upon the divine constitutional order. You need a male and a female for a marriage because so the Almighty has established, and that’s all! The only love that matters in Christianity is the love for God and His statutes.
There can be plenty of Christian love outside marriage, there cannot be sexual intercourse outside of it. There can be unlawful sex inside the divine constitutional order, and there can be sex which is a rebellion against the divine constitutional order. There can be a marriage without sex and without procreation, there cannot be a marriage without a male and a female.
A male-female prerequisite, not only for marriage but for any kind of sexual intercourse, belongs to an inviolate foundation supremely sacred to God. Homosexual practice is a direct violation of that foundation. It is a conscious attack against the order divinely established, an insurgency against the constitutional order given by God to His creation and to us, the apex of His creation. It’s one of the worst offenses conceivable against God; in the sexual sphere, only bestiality (for obvious reasons) and the exploitation of children (violence is added to the same insurgency) are worse!
It should be noted that the sin is not the specific sexual act, but the homosexual intercourse. There is a long-standing issue on the matter of the same specific sexual act when it is performed by married couples, which has never been properly faced nor understood. In such cases, it could very well be a sin too, but it’s not the sin of Sodom!
I say “it could be” because my understanding is that the matrimonial bed cannot be defiled by any kind of sexual union between a husband and his wife and I am unaware of any scriptural prohibition of this specific sexual act between spouses. “The two shall be one flesh”, decreed by God and confirmed by our Lord, is a so powerful and so all-encompassing expression that everything seems to be covered in that union. Someone could object that the expression should be referred to a spiritual union, but the word used is flesh not spirit and the words are never used carelessly in the Scriptures. While the spiritual union is undoubtedly the profound purpose of the sacramental marriage and while there is for sure a spiritual meaning and content in becoming one flesh, nevertheless the word used is flesh and it has a very defined scriptural meaning.
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
Anyway, I am fully aware that many Holy Fathers of the Church have seen this specific sexual act in a very bad light, even when performed in a lawful marriage, so that spouses would be well-advised to piously abstain from it. We know that not all which is permitted is profitable and God is well-pleased by voluntary abstinence out of devotion and fear of Him. However, it must be emphasized once more that there cannot be the sin of Sodom in the marriage!
If father Sergei wants to follow the teaching of St. Paul, he should be directed to Rom 1, 24-27, where he will discover that the Apostle takes “extra space to describe homosexuality as dishonorable, degrading, contrary to nature, an indecency/shameful behaviour and a fit payback in itself”; something he does not do for any other offense, included those elencated in 1 Cor 6, 9-10.
“As a complement to idolatry on the vertical vector of divine-human relations, St. Paul chose the offense of homosexual practice as his lead-off example on the horizontal vector of inter-human relations to illustrate human perversity in suppressing the obvious truth about God’s will for our lives perceptible in His creation.”
None of the (other) offenders cited in 1 Cor 6, 9-10 has this “privilege”. In short, father Sergei’s assertion that “the Scripture seems to imply equal treatment for all of those behaviors, including homosexuality” is misleading at best and an egregious, total crap at worst!
Not even a repentant homosexual should receive an equal treatment: he must receive double and even treble love and warm acceptance and support in the Church, because greater the sin greater the joy in Heaven for its rejection by the sinner, and even a greater economy in the penance would be justified. But is this what the almost totality of homosexuals want and ask from the Church? To be accepted and restored to Her in penitence? If such was the case, there would not be any problem, any problem at all!
Alas, the sad reality is completely different! Homosexuals want to be restored to the Church, taking with them their sin, one of the most grievous sin! Not only that, the homo-gang is hell-bent to a pitiless and full-fledged offensive to force their sin to all the others, to make it not only accepted but promoted and encouraged in the social contest. They want their perversion and depravity to be teached to our children since the infancy, they want special legislation and treatment putting them above fellow citizen, they claim the right to appropriate children to grow in their likeness. They want their rebellion against God and His order made whole, they want Sodom restored together with its statutes and its inverted tolerance: either you join the orgy or you get raped!
I am unaware of any other sinner with such a pretension. I hope that father Sergei is not blind to these which are the real terms of the problem with homosexuality today. I hope that none of the shepherds of the Church is blind to the fact that we live in apocalyptic times, unleashed upon mankind with the betrayal and the removal of “he who restrained” in 1917. Homosexuality is nothing new, but its pretensions today are! Not even the pagans dared to equiparate a homosexual relation to the marriage. I really hope that none of the shepherds of the Church, somehow intimidated by the aggressive homo bullies supported by the secular powers which have completely switched to Demonocracy and belong entirely to the dark master today in the West, will become lukewarm in his attitude against this most grievous sin, to be spit out from the Lord’s mouth.
Are homosexuals born homosexual? I do not know. This may be something for scientists to figure out.
This is blasphemy!
Father Sergei is saying here that he does not know if God creates some creatures (made in His image) with an innate urge towards a mortal sin; not with physical impairments or difficulties, no, but with a spiritual embedded direction towards eternal death, superseding their free will (with a corrupted logos, St. Maximos would say). Not only; he is willing to wait for scientists to give a diriment word about it. It would be ludicrous if it was not tragic!
A Christian should know better!
Beware that false Christian love which exceeds love for Christ and is prepared to make any compromise with all forms of evil!
- On August 6, 2015, Goldman Sachs, which has issued very bearish forecasts on long-term gold prices, took delivery of a 3.2-ton purchase of physical gold.
- On August 6, 2015, HSBC which also claims to be bearish, took delivery of a 3.9-ton purchase of physical gold.
- In both cases, the purchases are registered as being for the benefit of the bank’s own house account, rather than the accounts of customers.
- Investors should do as the banks do, not as they say.
Sunday August 9, 2015 / July 27, 2015 Commemoration of the canonization of Venerable Herman of Alaska (1970).
A Letter to Thomas Merton, 1962
by Eugene [Fr. Seraphim] Rose
I am a young American convert to Russian Orthodoxy—not the vague “liberal” spirituality of too many modern Russian “religious thinkers,” but the full ascetic and contemplative Orthodoxy of the Fathers and Saints—who have for some years been studying the spiritual “crisis” of our time, and am at present writing a book on the subject.  In the course of my study I have had occasion to read the works of a great number of Roman Catholic authors, some of which (those, for example, of Pieper, Picard, Gilson, P. Danielou, P. de Lubac) I have found quite helpful and not, after all, too distant from the Orthodox perspective, but others of which I have found quite disturbing in the light of what seems to me the plain teaching of the universal Church. I have read several of your works, and especially in some recent articles of yours I seem to find signs of one of the tendencies in contemporary Roman thought (it exists in Orthodoxy too, to be sure) that has most disturbed me. Since you are a Roman monk, I turn to you as to someone likely to clarify the ambiguities I have found in this trend of thought. What I would like to discuss chiefly concerns what might be called the “social mission” of the Church.
In an essay entitled Christian Action in World Crisis  you devote yourself especially to the question of “peace.” In an age when war has become virtually “impossible,” this is, of course, of central concern to any Christian, but your remarks particularly on this subject have left me troubled.
What, first of all, are the real antagonists of the spiritual warfare of our age? To say “Russia and America” is, of course, trivial; the enemy, as you say, “is in all of us.” But you further say, “The enemy is war itself” and its roots, “hatred, fear, selfishness, lust.”
Now I can quite agree with you that war today, at least “total war,” is quite unjustifiable by any Christian standard, for the simple reason that its “unlimited” nature escapes measure of any sort. The point in your argument that disturbs me is your statement that the only alternative to such war is “peace.”
The alternative to “total war” would seem to be “total peace;” but what does such a “peace” imply? You say, “we must try as best we can to work for the eventual abolition” of war; and that is indeed what “total peace” must be: abolition of war. Not the kind of peace men have known before this, but an entirely new and “permanent” peace.
Such a goal, of course, is quite comprehensible to the modern mentality; modern political idealism, Marxist and “democratic” alike has long cherished it. But what of Christianity?—and I mean full uncompromising Christianity, not the humanist idealism that calls itself Christian. Is not Christianity supremely hostile to all forms of idealism, to all reduction of its quite “realistic” end and means to mere lofty ideas? Is the ideal of the “abolition of war” really different in kind from such other lofty aims as the “abolition” of disease, of suffering, of sin, of death? All of these ideals have enlisted the enthusiasm of some modern idealist or other, but it is quite clear to the Christian that they are secularizations and so perversions of genuine Christian hopes. They can be realized only in Christ, only in His Kingdom that is not of this world; when faith in Christ and hope in His Kingdom are wanting, when the attempt is made to realize Christian “ideals” in this world—then there is idolatry, the spirit of Antichrist. Disease, suffering, sin, and death are an unavoidable part of the world we know as a result of the Fall. They can only be eliminated by a radical transformation of human nature, a transformation possible only in Christ and fully only after death.
I personally think that “total peace” is, at bottom, a utopian ideal; but the very fact that it seems practical today raises a profounder question. For, to my mind, the profoundest enemy of the Church today is not its obvious enemies—war, hatred, atheism, materialism, all the forces of the impersonal that lead to inhuman “collectivism,” tyranny and misery—these have been with us since the Fall, though to be sure they take an extreme form today. But the apostasy that has led to this obvious and extreme worldliness seems to me but the prelude to something much worse; and this is the chief subject of my letter.
The hope for “peace” is a part of a larger context of renewed idealism that has come out of the Second World War and the tensions of the post-war world, an idealism that has, especially in the last five or ten years, captured the minds of men—particularly the young—all over the world, and inspired them with an enthusiasm that has expressed itself concretely—and, often, quite selflessly—in action. The hope that underlies this idealism is the hope that men can, after all, live together in peace and brotherhood in a just social order, and that this end can be realized through “non-violent” means that are not incompatible with that end. This goal seems like the virtual revelation of a “new world” to all those weary of the misery and chaos that have marked the end of the “old” world, that hollow “modern” world that seems now to have finally—or almost—played out its awful possibilities; and at the same time it seems like something quite attainable by moral means—something previous modern idealisms have not been.
You yourself, indeed, speak of a possible “birth agony of a new world,” of the duty of Christians today “to perform the patient, heroic task of building a world that will thrive in unity and peace, ” even, in this connection, of “Christ the Prince of Peace.” The question that sorely troubles me about all this is, is it really Christianity, or is it still only idealism? And can it be both-is a “Christian idealism” possible?
You speak of “Christian action,” “the Christian who manifests the truth of the Gospel in social action,” “not only in prayer and penance, but also in his political commitments and in all his social responsibilities.” Well, I certainly will say nothing against that; if Christian truth does not shine through in all that one does, to that extent one is failing to be a Christian, and if one is called to a political vocation, one’s action in that area too must be Christian. But, if I am not mistaken, your words imply something more than that; namely, that now more than ever before we need Christians working in the social and political sphere, to realize there the truth of the Gospel. But why, if Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world? Is there really a Christian “social message,” or is not that rather a result of the one Christian activity—working out one’s salvation with diligence? I by no means advocate a practice of Christianity in isolation; all Christianity—even that of the hermit—is a “social Christianity,” but that is only as context, not as end. The Church is in society because men are in society, but the end of the Church is the transformation of men, not society. It is a good thing if a society and government profess genuine Christianity, if its institutions are informed by Christianity, because an example is given thereby to the men who are a part of that society; but a Christian society is not an end in itself, but simply a result of the fact that Christian men live in society.
I do not, of course, deny that there is such a thing as a Christian “social action”; what I question is its nature. When I feed my hungry brother, this is a Christian act and a preaching of the Kingdom that needs no words; it is done for the personal reason that my brother—he who stands before me at this moment—is hungry, and it is a Christian act because my brother is, in some sense, Christ. But if I generalize from this case and embark on a political crusade to abolish the “evil of hunger,” that is something entirely different; though individuals who participate in such a crusade may act in a perfectly Christian way, the whole project—and precisely because it is a “project,” a thing of human planning—has become wrapped in a kind of cloak of “idealism.”
A few more examples: The efficiency of modern medicines adds nothing to the fulfillment of the commandment to comfort the sick; if they are available, fine—but it is not Christian to think our act is better because more “efficient” or because it benefits more people. That, again, is idealism. (I need hardly mention the fact that medicines can become, indeed, a substitute for Christian “comfort” when the mind of the practitioner becomes too engrossed in efficiency; and the research scientist searching for a “cure for cancer” is not doing anything specifically “Christian” at all, but something technical and “neutral.”
“Brotherhood” is something that happens, right here and now, in whatever circumstances God places me, between me and my brother; but when I begin to preach the “ideal” of brotherhood and go out deliberately to practice it, I am in danger of losing it altogether. Even if—especially if—I make use of a seemingly Christian “non-violence” and “passive resistance” in this or any other cause, let me before I call it a Christian act—carefully ask myself whether its end is merely a lofty worldly ideal, or something greater. (St. Paul, to take a pretty clear example, did not tell slaves to revolt “non-violently;” he told them not to revolt at all, but to concern themselves with something much more important.)
The “Peace of Christ,” being in the heart, does not necessarily, in our fallen world, bring about outward peace, and I would wonder if it has any connection at all with the ideal of the “abolition of war.”
The difference between organized “charity” and Christian charity needs no comment. 
There may be—I would not have written this letter if I did not hope there was—a kind of true, though so to speak subterranean, “ecumenism” between separated Christians, especially in times of persecution; but that has nothing remotely to do with the activities of any “World Council of Churches.” 
You may from these examples, I hope, understand the doubts I entertain about the resurgence of seemingly “Christian” ideals in our time. I say “doubts,” for there is nothing intrinsically evil about any of these “crusades,” and there are involved in them all quite sincere and fervent Christians who are really preaching the Gospel; but, as I say, there is a kind of cloak of “idealism” wrapped about them all, a cloak that seems to be drawing them into its own quite independent service (without thereby negating, of course, the personal Christian acts performed under their auspices). What “service” is this?—the placating of the modern sense of “idealism” by translating inward and Christian truths into outward and—at best—semi-Christian ideals. And we must be realistic enough to see that the general effect on the minds of people both inside and outside these movements, both inside and outside the Church, is precisely to place emphasis upon the realization of outward ideals, thus obscuring inward truths; and since this emphasis has been made, the path is all too short to the palpable falsehood that “doing good is the real purpose of Christianity anyway, and the only basis in which all Christians can unite, while dogma and liturgy and the like are purely personal matters which tend more to separate than unite.” How many of those indeed, even Catholic and Orthodox, who are participating in the world of “social Christianity” today, do not believe that this is really a more “perfect” and even “inward” Christianity than a dogmatic, ascetic, and contemplative Christianity that doesn’t get such obvious “results”?
I have, before this, been reproached by Catholics for lack of interest in the social mission of the Church, for holding to a one-sided “ascetic” and “apocalyptic” Christianity; and some Catholic philosophers and theologians have made such accusations against the Orthodox Church itself—accompanied, sometimes, if I am not mistaken, by a somewhat patronizing tone that assumes the Church is rather “backward” or “out-of-date” about such things, having always been “repressed” by the State and used to looking at the world through the all-too-unworldly eyes of the monk. Far be it from me to presume to speak for the Church; but I can at least speak of some of the things I think I have learned from Her.
You may legitimately ask me what, if I am sceptical of “social Christianity “—though of course I do not wish it abolished or given to the devil, I am merely pointing out its ambivalence—what I advocate as “Christian action” in the midst of the “crisis” of the age with its urgent alternatives.
First and foremost I radically question the emphasis upon “action” itself, upon “projects” and “planning,” upon concern with the “social” and what man can do about it—all of which acts to the detriment of acceptance of the given, of what God gives us at this moment, as well as of allowing His will to be done, not ours. I do not propose a total withdrawal from politics and social work by all Christians; no arbitrary rule can govern that, it is up to the individual conscience. But in any case, if many may still be called to work for “justice,” “peace,” “unity,” “brotherhood” in the world—and these are all, in this generalized, ideal form, external and worldly goals—is it not at least as good a thing to be called to the totally unequivocal work of the Kingdom, to challenge all worldly ideals and preach the only needful Gospel: repent, for the Kingdom is at hand? You yourself quite rightly say of America and Russia, “the enemy is not just on one side or the other…. The enemy is on both sides.” Is it not possible to deepen this perception and apply it to those other seemingly ultimate alternatives, “war” and “peace”? Is one really any more possible for a Christian than the other, if the “peace” is a “total (i.e. idealistic) peace”? And does not the recognition of these two equally unacceptable alternatives lead us back to a genuine “third way”—one that will never be popular because it is not “new,” not “modern,” above all not “idealistic “—a Christianity that has as its end neither worldly “peace” nor “war,” but a Kingdom not of this world?
This is nothing “new,” as you say, and a world that imagines itself “post-Christian” is tired of it. It is true that when we, as Christians, speak to our brothers we often seem to be faced with a blank wall of unwillingness even to listen; and, being human, we may be made somewhat “desperate” by this lack of response. But what can be done about this? Shall we give up speaking about what our contemporaries do not want to hear, and join them in the pursuit of social goals which, since they are not specifically Christian, can be sought by non-Christians too? That seems to me an abdication of our responsibility as Christians. I think the central need of our time is not in the least different from what it has always been since Christ came; it lies, not in the area of “political commitments” and “social responsibilities,” but precisely in “prayer and penance” and fasting and preaching of the true Kingdom. The only “social responsibility” of a Christian is to live, wherever and with whomever he may be, the life of faith, for his own salvation and as an example to others. If, in so doing, we help to ameliorate or abolish a social evil, that is a good thing—but that is not our goal. If we become desperate when our life and our words fail to convert others to the true Kingdom, that comes from lack of faith. If we would live our faith more deeply, we would need to speak of it less.
You speak of the necessity, not just to speak the truth of Christianity, but “to embody Christian truth in action.” To me, this means precisely the life I have just described, a life infused with faith in Christ and hope in His Kingdom not of this world. But the life you seem to describe is one very much involved in the things of this world; I cannot help but regard it as an “outward” adaptation of true Christian inwardness.
Modern idealism, which is devoted to the realization of the idolatrous “Kingdom of Man,” has long been making its influence felt in Christian circles; but only in quite recent years has this influence begun to bear real fruit within the womb of the Church itself. I think there can be no question but that we are witnessing the birth pangs of something that, to the true Christian, is indeed pregnant with frightful possibilities: a “new Christianity,” a Christianity that claims to be “inward,” but is entirely too concerned with outward result; a Christianity, even, that cannot really believe in “peace” and “brotherhood” unless it sees them generalized and universally applied, not in some seemingly remote “other world,” but “here and now.” This kind of Christianity says that “private virtue” is not enough—obviously relying on a Protestantized understanding of virtue, since everything the true Christian does is felt by all in the Mystical Body; nothing done in Christ is done for oneself alone—but not enough for what? The answer to that, I think, is clear: for the transformation of the world, the definitive “realization” of Christianity in the social and political order. And this is idolatry. The Kingdom is not of this world; to think or hope that Christianity can be outwardly “successful” in the world is a denial of all that Christ and His prophets have said of the future of the Church. Christianity can be “successful” on one condition: that of renouncing (or conveniently forgetting) the true Kingdom and seeking to build up a Kingdom in the world. The “Earthly Kingdom” is precisely the goal of the modern mentality; the building of it is the meaning of the modern age. It is not Christian; as Christians, we know whose Kingdom it is. And what so greatly troubles me is that today Christians—Catholic and Orthodox alike—are themselves joining, often quite unaware of the fact, often with the best possible intentions, in the building of this new Babel….
The modern idealism that hopes for “heaven on earth” hopes likewise for the vague “transformation” of man—the ideal of the “superman” (in diverse forms, conscious or not), which, however absurd, has a great appeal to a mentality that has been trained to believe in “evolution” and “progress.” And let not contemporary despair make us think that hope in the worldly future is dead; despair over the future is only possible for someone who still wants to believe in it; and indeed, mingled with contemporary despair is a great sense of expectation, a will to believe, that the future ideal can, somehow, be realized.
The power of the impersonal and inhuman has ruled the first part of our century of “crisis”; a vague “existential” spirit, semi- or pseudo-religious, idealistic and practical at the same time (but never otherworldly), seems destined to rule the last part of this century. They are two stages of the same disease, modern “humanism,” the disease caused by trusting in the world and in man, while ignoring Christ—except to borrow His name as a convenient “symbol” for men who, after all, cannot quite forget Him, as well as to seduce those who still wish to serve Him. Christianity become a “crusade,” Christ become an “idea,” both in the service of a world “transformed” by scientific and social techniques and a man virtually “deified” by the awakening of a “new consciousness”: this lies before us. Communism, it seems clear, is nearing a transformation itself, a “humanizing,” a “spiritualizing,” and of this Boris Pasternak  is a sign given in advance; he does not reject the Revolution, he only wants it “humanized.” The “democracies,” by a different path, are approaching the same goal. Everywhere “prophets “—semi- or pseudo-Christians like Berdyaev and Tolstoy, more explicit pagans like D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Kazanzakis, as well as the legions of occultists, astrologers, spiritualists and millenialists—all herald the birth of a “new age.” Protestants, and then more and more Catholics and Orthodox, are caught up in this enthusiasm and envisage their own age of ecumenical unity and harmony, some being so bold—and so blasphemous—as to call it a “third age” of the “descent of the Holy Spirit” (a la D. H. Lawrence, Berdyaev, and ultimately, Joachim of Floris).
An age of “peace” may come to weary, yet apocalyptically anxious, man; but what can the Christian say of such “peace”? It will not be the Peace of Christ; it is but fantasy to imagine a sudden, universal conversion of men to full Christian faith, and without such faith His Peace cannot come. And any human “peace” will only be the prelude to the outburst of the only and real “war” of our age, the war of Christ against all the powers of Satan, the war of Christians who look only for the Kingdom not of this world, against all those, pagan or pseudo-Christian, who look only for a worldly Kingdom, a Kingdom of Man.
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It was only after I had completed the preceding pages that I saw your article in Commonweal, “Nuclear War and Christian Responsibility.”  There you bring up the topic to which I was planning to devote the rest of this letter: the Apocalypse.
There is, of course, nothing of which it is more dangerous to speak. Futile and overliteral speculation on apocalyptic events is an only too obvious cause of spiritual harm; and no less so, I think, is the facile way in which many of our contemporaries refer to the “apocalyptic” character of the times, and in so doing raise in others deep fears and hopes which their own vague pronouncements are far from satisfying. If a Christian is going to speak of the Apocalypse at all, it is quite clear that in this as in everything else his words must be sober, as precise as possible, and fully in accord with the universal teaching of the Church. In this case I can see no reason why Latin and Orthodox testimony should be substantially different. The prophetic texts are the possession alike of East and West; the commentaries and statements of the Fathers, both Greek and Latin, on these texts are explicit, detailed, and in mutual agreement; and the tradition of the Fathers has been affirmed, after the schism, by both the Orthodox and Latin Churches—in the latter most authoritatively, I would presume, in the person of Thomas Aquinas.  The recent book of Josef Pieper, The End of Time, basing itself almost entirely on Western sources, is, so far as I know, in no essential point at variance with Orthodox tradition. It is rather a shock, in fact, to read in Fr. D’Arcy’s Meaning and Matter of History that “not all Christian scholars would accept such a literal acceptance” of apocalyptic literature. Perhaps not, indeed, but that is to say no more than that, just as many Jews did not recognize the Christ of their prophecies, so will many Christians fail to discern the signs of the times with regard to the Antichrist and the end of time. (Many Christians have departed so far from tradition as to believe that the Antichrist will be no actual man, but a vague “spirit” only, much as many modern Jews have transformed their messianic hope into belief in a mere “messianic age.”)
But this failure of many Christians is itself part of the prophecies concerning the “falling away,” even within the Church itself; as Blessed Jerome said, “Many esteemed as the Patriarch shall fall.” For the Antichrist is a deceiver, and too few Christians are prepared for his deceptions. It is thus dangerous to speak of “apocalyptic” things without speaking of the Antichrist and his spirit. It is easy for the weakest understanding today to see something “apocalyptic” in the fantastic destructive powers man now possesses; but worldly power is only one aspect of the reign of the Antichrist—great deceptiveness, such as to deceive, if possible, even the elect, is another and less obvious one. You speak, like many today, of the possible “destruction of the human race”; is this not a rather strong phrase for a Christian to use? Does it not, again, place too much emphasis on the power of man? Does it not, above all, overlook the prophecies of what must come to pass before God (Who, of course, alone can “destroy the human race” He has created) calls men into His Kingdom?
In no uncertain words you affirm, once more, “War must be abolished. A world government must be established.” Is not “must” a rather strong word? It is indeed a symptom of the apocalyptic character of the age that the only “practical” solution to the present crisis—the abolition of war—should at the same time be (as I think) totally idealistic. To some this situation gives rise to thoughts of a “new age” or a “new world”; to me, it suggests the possibility that we are, in actual fact, on the threshhold of the last days, when all courses of worldly action begin to become impossible.
A “new world”—this is a phrase, I have noticed, that you yourself use. In The Living Bread you even suggest that “we are witnessing the dawn of a light that has never before been seen…. We live, perhaps, on the threshhold of the greatest eucharistic era of the world—the era that may well witness the final union of mankind.” You ask, to be sure (but without giving an answer), “Will this visible union be a political one?” And you even suggest that “perhaps the last age of all will be ‘eucharistic’ in the sense that the Church herself will give the glory and praise to God by being put to the Cross.”
To Christians, who possess the word of Christ and His Prophets and Saints concerning the last days, I do not see how there can be any “perhaps” in the matter. The political union of mankind, however legitimate it may be as a political goal, can only end in the reign of Antichrist; the Church, beyond all doubt, will be crucified after a good many of the faithful have betrayed Her through the deceptions of the Antichrist.
I by no means preach an imminent “reign of Antichrist” and apocalypse that is possible, of course, and Christians at all times must be prepared for it; but no one knows the hour…. What I do wish to emphasize is the fact—I take it so—that, spiritually speaking, contemporary man in his despair of the present and still-present hope in the future, confronted with “ultimate” alternatives and seemingly “apocalyptic” social and scientific transformations (and evolutionary hope), has never been more receptive to the advent of a pseudo-Messiah, a supreme “problem-solver” and inspirer of the bright human “idealism.”
In times like these, I think, the Christian should be wary of involving himself in the tangled web of political activity, lest in striving for too much he lose all; boldness in faith and in preaching the Kingdom (above all by the example of one’s life), to be sure there is not nearly enough of that today—but caution in worldly “planning,” of which we have a superfluity, even (in fact, most of all) in the interest of “high ideals.”
Above all, the Christian in the contemporary world must show his brothers that all the “problems of the age” are of no consequence beside the single central “problem of man”: death, and its answer, Christ. Despite what you have said about the “staleness” of Christianity to contemporary men, I think that Christians who speak of this problem, and in their lives show that they actually believe all that “superstition” about the “other world”—I think they have something “new” to say to contemporary man. It has been my own experience that serious young people are “tired” of Christianity precisely because they think it is an “idealism” that hypocritically doesn’t live up to its “ideals”; of course, they don’t believe in the other world either—but for all they know, neither do “Christians.”
I think Christians have of late become entirely too “sophisticated,” too anxious to feel at home in the world by accommodating their faith to passing fashions of thought; so contemporary Christians become “existential,” speak of the “here and now” of faith and spiritual things. Well, that is fine, as far as it goes—but it doesn’t go far enough. Our hope as Christians cannot be reduced to the abstract, but neither can it be reduced to the concrete; we believe and hope in a Kingdom no one living has ever seen, our faith and hope are totally impossible in the eyes of the world. Well then, let us tell the world that we believe the “impossible.” It has been my experience that contemporary men want to believe, not little, but much; having abandoned Christian faith, nothing can seem too fantastic to them, nothing can seem too much to hope for—hence the “idealism” of today’s youth. For myself, my own faith grew rather gradually, as a more or less “existential” thing, until the stunning experience of meeting a Christian (a young Russian monk) for whom nothing mattered but the Kingdom of the world to come. Let the contemporary sophisticate prattle of the childishness of seeking “future rewards” and all the rest—life after death is all that matters. And hope in it so fires the true believer—he who knows that the way to it is through the hard discipline of the Church, not through mere “enthusiasm”—that he is all the more in the present (both in himself and as an example) than the “existentialist” who renounces the future to live in the present.
The future Kingdom has not been abandoned by modern Christians, but it has been so “toned down” that one wonders how strong the faith of Christians is. Particularly all the involvement of Christians in the projects of social idealism, seems to me a way of saying: “You, the worldly, are right. Our Kingdom ‘not of this world’ is so distant and we can’t seem to get it across to you; so we will join you in building something we can actually see, something better than Christ and His Kingdom—a reign of peace, justice, brotherhood on earth.” This is a “new Christianity,” a refinement, it seems to me, of the Christianity of the “Grand Inquisitor” of Dostoyevsky.
And what of the “old” Christianity of “private virtue”? Why has it become so stale? Because, I think, Christians have lost their faith. The outward Gospel of social idealism is a symptom of this loss of faith. What is needed is not more busyness but a deeper penetration within. Not less fasting, but more; not more action, but prayer and penance. If Christians really lived the Christian hope and the full path of unification that looks to its fulfillment, instead of the easy compromise that most laymen today think sufficient—and doesn’t the “new Christianity” tell them that working for social ideals is really more important than following the Christian discipline?—; if Christians in their daily life were really on fire with love of God and zeal for His Kingdom not of this world—then everything else needful would follow of itself.
We can hardly hope that such a life will be too widespread in our time, or even, perhaps, that its example will make many converts—surely not as many as will the “new” Gospel; for social idealism is a part of the spirit of the age, while genuine Christian otherworldliness is most emphatically not. Too, it is more difficult and often less certain of itself—so weak is our faith; altogether, in short, an unappealing goal for outwardly-minded modern man. All of this is inconsequential: ours it is to live the full Christian life—the fruit of it is in God’s hands.
Well, I have said what I wanted to say. I should be very grateful to receive a reply from you, if you think my remarks worth replying to. And if you do reply, I hope you will be as frank as I have tried to be. This is the only kind of ecumenical “dialogue” of which I am capable; and if it seems more like a challenge to “combat,” I hope that will not deter you. My criticisms, I am sure you know, are directed not at you but at your words (or at what I have made of them).
Yours in Christ,
1. The Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God.
2. First published in Black Friars, June, 1962, pp. 266-268. Republished in Thomas Merton on Peace, McCall Publishing, 1971.
3. See Part III above. [This Letter was Part IV of a larger work that is not on this website—webmaster].
4. Eugene here alludes to an idea articulated in a work that highly influenced him at this time: A Short History of Antichrist by Vladimir Soloviev. Although this work clearly contains some un-Orthodox teachings, it is valuable in that it presents a striking contrast between the true unity of catacomb Christians in the last times and the false unity of the “official” church under Antichrist. For a more qualified and thorough discussion of what Eugene hints at, see Before the Face of Antichrist by Archimandrite Constantine in The Orthodox Word, no. 121.
5. Merton had recently written an article entitled Pasternak and the People with Watch Chains (published in Jubilee, July, 1959). In response to this article, Eugene wrote to Merton:
“The ‘religion’ of Pasternak, the author of Dr. Zhivago, is that ‘new spirituality’ that wants something more than the ‘small’ and ‘limited’ Christ the Church worships, rather a ‘new’ Christ more in keeping with the ‘free human spirit’ of the age. This is the spirit of the man-god, the superman, no longer crude as in Nietzsche, but refined, spiritualized, made plausible as the logical and historical continuation, even the messianic successor, of the bankrupt ‘humanist’ tradition: a ‘new humanism.’ This spirit is no friend of true Christianity, but its mortal enemy.
“The language you use in describing the ‘spirituality’ of Pasternak, though it might seem to have the excuse of being addressed to a ‘popular’ audience, cannot but cause sorrow to an Orthodox reader. To speak of a ‘liturgical and sacramental character’ that has little or nothing to do with ‘established ritual form’ or ‘ritualistic routine,’ but instead ‘unstrained by formal or hieratic rigidities’; of the ‘world of God-manhood’ and ‘the transfigured cosmos’ as seen by someone whom you admit to be rather ‘pagan’ and perhaps ‘agnostic,’ and who is only in the vaguest sense ‘Christian’; of a ‘symbolic richness’ akin to that of the Greek Fathers, yet ‘without their dogmatic and ascetic preoccupations’; of a ‘freedom’ and ‘life’ totally outside the Church—none of this can make any sense to a right-believing Orthodox (nor, I should think to a Catholic); at best vague and rather ‘Protestant,’ it too easily lends itself to the service of the ‘new Christianity,’ born of Protestantism, Humanism, and natural human idealism, that is now sweeping over the world. My own faith has been nurtured precisely by the spirituality that has emerged from the fires of Soviet persecution; but this spirituality is by no means the ‘simple,’ ‘primitive,’ and romantic ‘spontaneity’ you find in Pasternak….
“The faith of Pasternak is a vague and impotent faith that will not accept Christ, that believes only in ‘life,’ in the world, dressed up (no doubt from a quite genuine aesthetic interest) in some shreds of the outward garb of Orthodoxy, and hoping, against hope that its idealism can be realized in this world….”
6. Commonweal, vol. 75, Feb. 9, 1962.
7. In the manuscript notes of Eugene’s letter to Merton are found other comments relating to Thomas Aquinas, and more particularly to the results of his philosophy. When Eugene commented on “realism” in modern Roman Catholic thought, this was in a context different from the Christian realism mentioned in Part II above [This Letter was Part IV of a larger work that is not on this website—webmaster].. “Thomist philosophy and Catholic realism in general,” he wrote, “inspires us [i.e. , Orthodox Christians—ed.] with a certain uneasiness. Why? In a word, because it is too much concerned with the things of this world. It overestimates the worth of the ‘natural’ in underestimating the corruption of the natural order and of the human intellect, by the Fall; the ‘natural’ we know is no longer fully natural. But more essential than this, it aspires to a knowledge and ‘wisdom’ that are ‘heavy’ with all the weight of the ‘world,’ that act as though—for all practical purposes—the world is eternal. The time of the Kingdom has come: in the light of this truth, which is central to Christianity, all the worldly preoccupations of Catholic realism seem almost a mockery. Does not this ‘realism’ say: Let man fulfill his ‘natural’ self, let him seek worldly knowledge and happiness and temporal improvement, and then look to the knowledge and happiness that lie above these, proceeding from what is humbler and more accessible to what is nobler and more hidden. But if the time of the Kingdom has come, is it not too late to be pursuing these worldly aims? And is it not inevitable that many who begin with the humble will never leave it? Seek ye first the Kingdom of God. The imperative to Christians seems all too obvious: put away all worldly things, and seek the Kingdom. The Kingdom has been ‘delayed’; do we then return to our original path, that worldly wisdom to which Christ’s message is folly? Alas, with ‘Christian philosophy,’ and how much more so with modern ‘science,’ we do just that. Christ is our wisdom, not the world; and in the end these two cannot be reconciled. A ‘natural wisdom’ subordinated to Christian Truth; a ‘natural science’ devoted to Christian uses (horror of horrors!)—these, in a ‘normal’ time, might be legitimate. But the fact that Christ has come marks our time as an extraordinary time, a time in which ‘normal’ concerns, wisdom and worldly knowledge, must be put aside, and we too must be crucified and made a scandal and folly to the world. Christianity stands opposed to the world. True, there is too the ‘world’ that is to be saved—but not by descending to its level. Christianity must teach art to paint Christ, not to paint the world in a Christian ‘spirit’; science must place Christ in the center of the universe, though it crucify all its formulas to do so (it is in that case that the formulas, not Christ, are wanting)”
On the same theme of Catholic “realism,” Fr. Seraphim stated: “It is not surprising that many modern Catholic ‘realists’ find the traditional teaching of the reign of Antichrist shocking—too ‘literal’ at any rate. For one cannot believe that everything ‘natural’ is good and at the same time see a reign of evil as its historical outcome.”
Not 0f This World page 235:
If Eugene ever sent his letter to Thomas Merton. no reply from the latter has been preserved … In 1966 Merton formally rejected the outlook he had held 25 years earlier when he had written The Seven Storied Mountain. He mocked what he felt to be his former delusion in renouncing the world , believing this to be “negative,” “world-denying” Christianity that had existed throughout the centuries but now was outmoded, ready to be replaced by the new vision of Pope John XXIII. In outlining his new way of thinking, Merton said that the true duty of the Christian was “to choose the world.”
The tragedy of Thomas Merton –and such it was, no matter what the world may try to make of him– bore witness to Eugene’s statement that “the outward Gospel of social idealism is a symptom of loss of faith.” Merton began to take his spiritual search outside Christianity into Eastern religions. At first Eugene hoped it would free him from the straitjacket of Roman Catholic institutionalism , with which he has struggled as a monk, and would lead him, as it had Eugene himself, to the “Eastern,” mystical dimension of Christianity –0rthodoxy. But such was not the case. Merton’s investigation of Buddhism and Hinduism only led him deeeper into them. Following from his Church’s striving for “universality in the spiritual field,” he gradually lost his faith in the uniqueness of Christian Truth. “Starving men can not distinguish flavors.” By the time of his famous pilgrimage to Hindu and Buddhist centers of Asia, Merton viewed Christianity as but one path among many; he said he felt more rapport with Budhhists than with Roman Catholics, and expressed his desire to “find a Tibetan guru and go in for Nyingmapa Tantric initiation.”