Blessed Seraphim Rose

It’s later than you think! Hasten therefore to do the work of God.

I’ve been reading, this past six months, in between homework and papers, the 1000-page biography of Fr. Seraphim (ne Eugene) Rose, Not of This World, a convert to Orthodoxy (in 1962), who became a monk, co-founding the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood (whose publishing ministry can be found here). (Note: The biography, in its first edition, is marred by some of the jurisdictional politics that was all too rife in the 70s and 80s. A critique of the first edition, by a close friend of Fr. Seraphim, can be found here. A second edition, Fr. Seraphim Rose, is in process now, and is expected to be published soon.) Fr. Seraphim died in 1982, in his late forties.

I’m impressed by two things about Fr. Seraphim. First, his humility. A brilliant linguist and Sinologist, he turned away from a career in academia (for which he was clearly suited) to go “further up and further in” to the faith and life of the Orthodox Church. This meant for him, in time, monasticism and the priesthood. In this vocation, his strong mind was used for God, and by no means wasted. He both wrote articles in and translated works from Chinese, Greek, Latin, French, Russian, and other languages, both in their modern and more ancient forms. He read and criticized important philosophical and theological works. He was nonetheless deeply engaged in the culture of modern U. S. society, and offered deep reflections and criticisms of important movements. He was among the first to warn of the impending dangers of Jonestown, and of what has come to be known as the New Age movement. But his humility was also evident in his refusal to take part in the ecclesial controversies of his day. He sought the deeper and more genuine expression of Orthodoxy and the Church, and not the shallow, soul-destroying allegiances of church politics.

I am also impressed by his urgent desire to go ever deeper into the faith and life of the Church. Not content to read about the vibrant life of monasticism, he forged ahead, with the blessing of his spiritual father, St. John Maximovitch, founding a monastery and eventually being received into the monastic life. He knew what it was to suffer, and how suffering could play a role in the redemption of one’s soul. May I capture even the smallest portion of such a spirit! (Goodness knows, I couldn’t take the whole thing!)

May his memory be eternal.